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Measure aims to protect residents of historically Black Louisville neighborhoods from displacement

A one-story red brick house with white siding on the facade. It is fronted by a small tidy lawn and a black fence separating it from the sidewalk.
J. Tyler Franklin
This house is in Russell, one of the neighborhoods that designated historically Black by the proposed ordinance.

The Historically Black Neighborhood ordinance would curb gentrification and keep low-income people from being displaced, its sponsor said.

With mounting rent and home prices in Louisville plus more public and private investments in majority Black neighborhoods, a proposed ordinance aims to offer protections to residents.

The eight areas designated as historically Black in the ordinance are Berrytown, California, Limerick, Little Africa (parts of Chickasaw, Parkland and Park DuValle), Petersburg, Russell, Shawnee and Smoketown.

Council Member Jecorey Arthur, a District 4 Democrat, said he got to work on the ordinance shortly after he was elected in 2020. He represents downtown and parts of adjacent western neighborhoods

“We’re trying to fight gentrification with this ordinance, and the only control we really have legislatively is the resources of the local government,” he said. “If a developer wants to get resources from local government, they cannot displace you, or we are not helping them with that development.”

The ordinance is cosponsored by Council Member Kumar Rashad, a Democrat representing District 3, which includes the independent city of Shively.

The ordinance would prevent Louisville Metro Government from using public resources for development projects that could increase the cost of living in these neighborhoods.

It would also create an assessment mechanism to determine whether developments proposed in the designated areas would contribute to displacement.

The assessment will include information on rent and home prices, as well as the income levels of new businesses’ target customers. If it determines the developments run a risk of increasing cost of living in the neighborhoods, they would not receive land, money or any other support from Louisville Metro Government.

Residents living in the historically Black neighborhoods would be prioritized for local programs such as the Down Payment Assistance program, home repair programs and the Small Business Assistance program, Arthur said.

The ordinance would also create a commission of residents and representatives from the Louisville Human Relations Commission and other city departments.to investigate cases of discrimination against residents of the designated neighborhoods and conduct displacement assessments.

At a town hall meeting on Tuesday, tenant organizer Jessica Bellamy credited California resident Mary Hall’s fight to reclaim her family’s property as a part of laying the groundwork for the proposed ordinance.

“She fought really hard to be able to get back her family's land. Metro Government has already made a commitment that if it can be proven that a family's land was wrongfully taken by the government that it would give them something comparable,” Bellamy said.

Bellamy said the ordinance would flesh out that process and give families the support of the Human Relations Commission, which deals with internal issues of discrimination.

Arthur said the ordinance will be presented to the Louisville Metro Planning and Zoning Committee meeting this month.

This story was updated to remove a typographical error.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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