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Hispanic and Latino renters face most housing instability, discrimination in Kentucky

Photo by Karthik R on Unsplash

In Kentucky, more than half of Hispanic and Latino residents are behind on their rent, according to a recent study. The rate is five times that of Black renters, seven times more than white tenants and more than three times the national average.  

In contrast, the study found neighboring Indiana is one of nine states where the number of white renters who owe rent surpassed all Black, Hispanic and Latino tenants who are behind on their payments.

Christian Worstell, who authored the report for consumer information website Help Advisor, said there are many influencing factors. Income loss as a result of COVID-19, rising rent prices in Kentucky and ending public benefit programs can lead to the racial disparity in rent delinquency, he said. 

“You have a lot of Hispanic and Latino residents working in food service and hospitality, which are two industries that were hit really hard,” Worstell said. “One-bedroom apartment rents in Kentucky increased 38% from 2020 to 2021. And two-bedroom apartment prices increased 24%.”

He said discriminatory housing practices can also play a part. 

“If you're living in an apartment and your rent is increasing, and you decide you have to try to move to a cheaper apartment but you're being discriminated against, it's only going to make it that much harder to move into a more affordable housing unit,” Worstell said. 

Last year, a National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) study found Hispanic and Latino renters in Louisville faced the highest rates of housing discrimination compared to anywhere else in the country. The city ranked third in terms of having the highest rates of housing discrimination against Black residents, behind Chicago and Los Angeles.

The NLIHC study also found connections between the rates of discrimination against renters of color and areas with high volumes of residential segregation.

District 4 Council Member Jecorey Arthur, a Democrat, said a lack of language access resources is a lasting barrier to equality in Louisville. 

“If you're behind on rent, and you don't speak English or you don't speak English well, and you're trying to get access to the rent assistance programs, and you can't communicate with the people who are distributing those funds, or you can't read the forums to sign up to get access to those funds, it might as well say ‘no Hispanic people,’” Arthur said.

He and Council Member Nicole George of District 21, also a Democrat, have proposed an ordinance that aims to get the ball rolling on creating language access measures across Metro departments.

“We would not be a welcoming city if we don't have language access policies across our agencies,” Arthur said. “I also want to make sure that we don't go back, depending on who the new mayor is, to something that's even less progressive and even less accessible for people who don’t speak English, or who speak English as a second language.”

Louisville will elect a new mayor in November to succeed term-limited Greg Fischer, who was first elected in 2010.

The ordinance has been assigned to the Metro Council Committee on Equity and Inclusion and will be up for consideration next Thursday. If it gains the council’s approval and is enacted, Arthur said it would take time to implement language access tools for residents.. 

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