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Louisville Metro Council passes anti-displacement ordinance that aims to combat gentrification

A row of homes in Louisville.
Ryan Van Velzer
The ordinance passed Metro Council with 25 "yes" votes Thursday evening.

The anti-displacement ordinance will make sure land developers who plan to use city resources for projects do not displace residents or impact affordability in the neighborhoods they build in.

Louisville Metro Council members unanimously voted Thursday night to approve the ordinance.

It was sponsored by Independent District 4 Council Member Jecorey Arthur, District 8 Council Member Ben Reno-Weber, District 3 Council Member Kumar Rashad and District 1 Council Member Tammy Hawkins — the latter three being Democrats.

To ascertain the risk of displacement when a new development is proposed, the ordinance will create a "displacement assessment" matrix. The Office of Housing and Community Development will select a research center at an academic institution to create the matrix. Metro Council will have to vote to approve the assessment tool.

It will include a comparative analysis of the proposed rent and sale prices of the development with housing data locally and nationally to determine affordability.

Arthur said the tool will make the process faster and more transparent for developers.

“When you want government resources, you don’t really know what the Metro government expects of you when it comes to affordable housing,” he said. “This will help set that expectation so you know that before you fill out paperwork or jump through all those bureaucracy hoops.”

The ordinance also creates the Louisville Metro Anti-Displacement Commission that will investigate discriminatory housing practices and refer people to the city’s housing programs.

Smoketown resident and Louisville Tenants Union organizer Jessica Bellamy said publicly funded developments in her neighborhood have led to home prices skyrocketing.

“As a result, hundreds of deeply rooted families were hemorrhaged from my community,” she said. “Right now, I can show you a shotgun house in Smoketown that is over $300,000. And we know that house isn’t for us. I feel devastated and ashamed that I cannot afford to return to the community of my childhood.”

Bellamy said that’s why residents of Smoketown and other neighborhoods like it are vulnerable to displacement and need policies in place to protect them.

She said she organized with the Louisville Tenants Union to help draft the legislation. The ordinance went through multiple revisions since the initial version in 2020.

Previously known as the Historically Black Neighborhood ordinance, it was amended to include all of Louisville.

The ordinance passed with 25 “yes” votes to the sound of cheers and applause.

“A lot of times when we debate legislation, we talk about what other cities have done,” Arthur said after the ordinance passed. “Tonight we are doing something that no other city has done. Louisville is leading.”

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

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