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Louisville Metro will help fund seven affordable housing developments

Christie McCravey, executive director of the Louisville Metro Affordable Housing Trust Fund, speaks a press conference in Metro Hall on Oct. 6, 2022.
Christie McCravey, executive director of the Louisville Metro Affordable Housing Trust Fund, speaks a press conference in Metro Hall on Oct. 6, 2022.

Louisville Metro is distributing a total of $40 million among seven affordable housing projects targeting the city's poorest residents. 

City officials were joined by housing advocates, nonprofit leaders and developers to make the announcement at a press conference in Metro Hall on Thursday. Combined, the seven projects will create almost 300 housing units for families making below 30% of the area median income, or about $27,000 for a family of four. The developments will be spread out across the city, from the Russell neighborhood in west Louisville to Hazelwood in the South End. 

Christie McCravey, executive director of the Louisville Metro Affordable Housing Trust Fund, said the funding will begin to chip away at the large need.

“The awards represent a range of developments that will address the most vulnerable in our community, regardless of their circumstances and in spite of their journey,” she said. “Everyone deserves safe, decent, quality affordable housing.”

McCravey said owners of the developments are required to keep rent affordable for 20 years in exchange for funding. The seven awardees were chosen out of an applicant pool of 17 developers. 

Metro Council approved the $40 million in grants late last year as part of the second round of federal pandemic relief spending. In total, Louisville Metro received around $388 million from Congress’ American Rescue Plan Act.

District 9 Metro Council Member Bill Hollander, who chairs the body’s Budget Committee, said legislators wanted to be bold in how they used the money to address Louisville’s most pressing issues. 

“We have much more to do, but we are making a difference in providing every Louisvillian a safe, decent and affordable place to live,” Hollander said. “There’s no more important work for the city.”

A 2019 housing assessment commissioned by the city found that Louisville has an unmet need for more than 30,000 housing units for its lowest income residents. 

Included in the projects slated to receive government funding is a 38-unit housing development by REBOUND Inc. in the Shawnee neighborhood. It will be constructed on a vacant lot at 3825 W. Market St. 

Kevin Dunlap, the nonprofit’s executive director, said building housing for low-income residents requires a lot of money. Developers have to find funding to bridge the gap between what a bank will lend for an affordable housing project and what’s required to actually construct it. 

“Many of you all don’t know the commitment that all these [developers] have, including myself, to creating more affordable housing in this city,” Dunlap said. “It is not an easy task.”

City officials said it was important that some of the funding go toward a project that would support residents with severe mental illness. The nonprofit Wellspring will receive $8.2 million to purchase and rehab apartment properties throughout Jefferson County. 

Kathy Dobbins, CEO of Wellspring, said they plan to provide housing alongside support services for people dealing with mental illness and substance abuse disorder. Dobbins said the developments will be integrated into neighborhoods and will not feature signage indicating they’re affordable housing. 

“We want our clients to be part of a neighborhood and not stigmatized as ‘other,’” she said. “We believe that regular looking housing in regular looking neighborhoods, in and of itself, fosters inclusion and helps our clients in recovering.”

Dobbins said people with severe mental illness are one of the hardest populations to find adequate housing for. She said many rely on Social Security benefits as their sole source of income, receiving about $840 per month. The fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Jefferson County, she said, is $875. 

“Most advocates agree that no one deserves to live in an institution simply because they have what we now recognize as a biologically based brain disorder,” Dobbins said. “But neither should they be relegated to life on the margins of society, as is true for our homeless neighbors.”

Wellspring plans to use the $8.2 million grant to provide 50 new units of affordable housing with support services. 

Just last week, Louisville officials announced $32 million in grants to organizations providing similar housing with wraparound services like mental health and substance abuse treatment. The city has about $58 million left over from the American Rescue Plan Act. Most of that is expected to be used on workforce development projects.

A full list of the projects receiving part of the $40 million in affordable housing grants can be found on the city’s website.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.