Advocates campaign for eviction prevention funds in Louisville’s next budget
Housing advocates and Louisvillians who have personal experience with eviction are campaigning for at least $16 million in the city’s 2024 budget to fund eviction prevention services, including rental assistance.
Their campaign comes a week after Mayor Craig Greenberg announced his budget proposal for fiscal year 2023-2024. The $1.1 billion plan includes an additional $15 million for the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, as well as $2 million for small developer affordable housing preservation.
At a press conference Tuesday, members of the Louisville Eviction Working Group said Greenberg’s proposed budget doesn’t sufficiently prioritize eviction prevention. Rental and utilities assistance, as well as legal support for people dealing with the eviction process, are crucial to ensure Louisvillians stay housed, they argued.
Celine Mutuyemariya, organizing director of the Black Leadership Action Coalition of Kentucky, said funding eviction prevention services is a racial justice issue. Redlining and other racist housing policies have long prevented Black residents from becoming homeowners and accumulating generational wealth.
As a result, many Black Louisvillians are renters, and they disproportionately experience evictions, Mutuyemariya said.
“I thought about how different our city could be if elected officials had as much political will to fight evictions as they do when it comes to beautifying our city in preparation for out-of-state Derby visitors,” Mutuyemariya said, alluding to homeless encampment clearings. “It’s all about the choices that we make.”
Kevin Trager, Greenberg’s press secretary, said the mayor’s budget proposal provides “significant new investments in affordable housing and homeless services including eviction prevention,” citing the additional funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Trager said that since taking office in January, Greenberg’s administration has provided $8.25 million in direct rental assistance funding to local families facing eviction.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, an influx of federal funding and eviction moratoria helped cut the city’s eviction rate in half. Louisville’s Office of Resilience and Community Services disbursed over $57 million in emergency rent assistance to Louisvillians impacted by COVID, according to the office’s housing dashboard. The office received almost $43 million from the federal CARES Act.
But evictions have now bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. More than 5,000 evictions have been filed so far this year, averaging 58 eviction filings per day, according to the working group.
Angela Masden, with the Play Cousins Collective Family Network, said she has been on the brink of losing her house for months. In October, she lost a job she’d had for nine years. That’s when she began to realize how challenging it can be to secure rental assistance.
She’s asked for donations at local churches. A community member donated money to cover one month’s rent. But Masden and her 9-year-old son still worry about whether they’ll stay housed.
“These barriers that are happening are too much for people,” Masden said. “My 9-year-old asks me every single day, ‘Mom, are we going to be here today?’ because he doesn’t know where I'm going to get the money.”
Masden said she’s trying to get rental assistance before she reaches the eviction stage. Some groups have told her she needs an eviction notice in order to get any financial support.
That’s why Masden is asking for city funds to be allocated to organizations working directly with Louisvillians who are struggling to pay rent. This money would help families like hers, who are trying to keep a roof over their heads.
Greenberg’s budget proposal shifts more money to the Louisville Metro Police Department, with additional trainers and warrant specialists that Greenberg said will help the department “comply with those reforms and improvements” highlighted in the recent Department of Justice report.
Tony Curtis, executive director of Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said Greenberg’s budget proposal falls short of Louisvillians’ housing needs.
“We are watching the wave of housing instability being unleashed on the people of our city,” Curtis said.
Advocates will keep pushing for eviction prevention funding until June 22, when Metro Council will vote on the city budget.