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Greenberg releases plan to build 15,000 affordable housing units in Louisville

The owners of 2618 Elliott Ave. received $34,000 from the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund to rehabilitate this house.
Courtesy of Yvonne McAfee
A West Louisville home that received rehabilitation funding through the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

On Tuesday, Louisville Mayor Greenberg announced details of the city’s goal to create more housing. The plan calls for using both new and existing strategies.

While running to become Louisville’s mayor last year, Greenberg promised to help build 15,000 affordable housing units if elected.

The term “affordable” is typically described as housing that a resident spends no more than 30% of their monthly income on. But the term “affordable housing” is also synonymous with housing accessible to low-income residents and families.

Greenberg said during a Tuesday press conference that the plan, called “My Louisville Home,” would serve as a guide to create and maintain units for low-income Louisvillians amid local housing insecurity.

But the plan also focuses on expanding the overall housing supply by increasing the number of both market-rate and workforce houses, generally unaffordable for people whose income puts them below the poverty line.

Greenberg said that approach is important to promote economic growth and increase Louisville’s tax base.

“We need more housing for lower-income families, just as we need more housing for teachers, police officers, factory workers, nurses and more,” he said.

The city’s plan for increasing and maintaining affordable housing includes a variety of existing and new strategies. Among them, it would continue to offer vacant land that it controls to developers at below-market-value rates, and help support community land trusts.

It says it would also streamline the approval process for development projects that include affordable housing units, and focus its code enforcement on absentee landlords.

“Private sector landlords need to up their game and provide a high quality of housing. And that also means that we at Metro Government need to improve the quality of the housing that we offer to our residents through Louisville Metro Housing Authority,” Greenberg said.

The city’s plan also calls for expanding the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It provides loans and grants to support development and is required to spend half of its money on units affordable to residents at or below 50% area median income (AMI).

Louisville Metro Council approved $15 million for the fund in the latest city budget, and the plan suggests both increasing that allotment to $20 million each year and finding new ways to support it, such as through higher fees on property transfer and eviction filings.

Greenberg also referenced his administration’s past work toward expanding affordable housing, such as by allocating federal funds and supporting developers, saying it’s invested more than $37 million so far.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg speaks about his affordable housing plan outside the Hurstbourne Senior Apartments on October 3.
Jacob Munoz
/
LPM News
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg speaks about his affordable housing plan outside the Hurstbourne Senior Apartments on October 3.

The “My Louisville Home” plan is built off of the city’s 2019 Housing Needs Assessment, which found thousands of residents didn’t have access to units that fit their budget.

The report said more than 31,000 affordable housing units needed to be built for Louisville’s lowest-income residents: specifically, for residents making no more than 30% of AMI.

The city is scheduled to release a follow-up assessment next year.

Community leaders weigh in

Tony Curtis is the executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, which promotes accessible and affordable housing in Louisville. He said his group had been pushing Mayor Greenberg’s office to release his plan.

The coalition and other groups saw a preview of the plan last week, and Curtis said he sees both promise and room for improvement.

“I would encourage all Louisvillians to look at the plan, give the plan a chance, but give it some thought too,” he said.

Curtis said he thinks fast-tracking development projects with affordable housing is important. He also likes the city’s goal of expanding the diversity of housing through zoning changes.

That would allow more single-family homes to be converted into buildings like duplexes and triplexes, increasing the number of available units.

“Affordable housing looks very different in different situations,” Curtis said.

But he also wants to see a strong commitment to providing homes for households at or below 30% of area median income, even if he and the city also want to see more units across income levels.

“It's all interconnected, but we can't lose sight of our most vulnerable households that are the lowest incomes in our community,” Curtis said.

George Eklund, director of education and advocacy at the Coalition for the Homeless, said he’s glad to see a detailed plan for closing the gap on the 31,000 missing affordable homes.

Like Curtis, he’s supportive of changes to the land development code that would allow more types of housing to be built across Louisville. Eklund is also in favor of the plan’s goal to finance permanent supportive housing, which is aimed at helping chronically homeless residents.

“It's really great for those individuals that are incredibly hard to house that need more intensive case management, that need more support to remain housed,” Eklund said.

He said his group plans to ask the city about how much money will go toward funding homes for people making 30% or below AMI.

“That is our focus on the housing continuum, you know. It's hard for us to jump to say like, ‘Oh, we're going to advocate for 80% AMI,’” Eklund said.

The Louisville Tenants Union, however, is much more critical of the mayor’s plan. One of its organizers, Josh Poe, provided a statement from the union.

It argued it doesn’t focus enough on providing homes for the city’s lowest-income residents and instead could increase displacement. The union also recommended that tenants should have the ability to collectively own their buildings.

Poe said he didn’t think Greenberg’s administration consulted groups most affected by housing insecurity.

“Nothing in this plan responds to the pain, or the trauma or the urgency of what's actually happening to working-class people in their communities right now,” Poe said.

Louisville Metro is taking feedback on the “My Louisville Home” plan until Nov. 3 and says it will release a final version of it on Dec. 1.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.