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Mayor Greenberg lets anti-displacement ordinance become law without his signature

Man in suit speaking at lectern with hands raised
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg, pictured here in October 2023, declined to sign an anti-displacement ordinance after it passed unanimously out of Metro Council.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg allowed a measure aimed at reducing displacement to become law without signing it. Metro Council unanimously passed the ordinance last month after it spent years in progress.

In a statement released on social media Thursday, Greenberg said he would not sign the law as it goes into effect.

He argued it would not achieve its goal of keeping residents in their homes, expressing concern that it would delay projects and disincentivize new affordable housing from being created.

“The unintended consequences of this ordinance — driven largely by a lack of clarity, lack of exemptions for critical programs and unrealistic timelines — will hurt our efforts to build much-needed affordable housing,” Greenberg said.

Council members voted 25-0 last month to pass the anti-displacement ordinance, originally known as the Historically Black Neighborhoods Ordinance. Jecorey Arthur, a District 4 Independent, is the ordinance’s original sponsor who started working on it in late 2020.

Its passage came years after a city-commissioned study reported significant gaps in affordable housing. Among its findings, the 2019 study determined Louisville needed an additional 31,000 housing units for the city’s lowest-income residents.

Starting in June, developers who want to use Metro Government resources like city-owned land and tax abatements will have to pass a displacement assessment, if the development is within Louisville Metro’s boundaries.

Leading up to the final Metro Council vote, the measure also faced pushback from members of Greenberg’s administration, including Jeff O’Brien, the executive director of the city’s economic development cabinet.

O’Brien raised concerns about the ordinance at a Metro Council Planning and Zoning Committee meeting in October, while Arthur responded at that meeting that he had previously spoken with him about it and argued against the concerns.

In calls on the day the council decided on the ordinance, members of the mayor’s administration asked council members to vote against it. Council members who told LPM News about those calls said city officials expressed concerns that seemed to be related to previous versions of the ordinance.

In Thursday’s statement, Greenberg criticized the deadline to implement the displacement assessment framework, saying he didn’t think it would be possible to do within six months, which could in turn stall development.

“Any delay, particularly during a time of high interest rates, will impact the financial feasibility of any project and will certainly deter affordable housing builders,” Greenberg said.

Man in black shirt speaking
Metro TV
Metro Council Member Jecorey Arthur began working on what became the anti-displacement ordinance in late 2020.

Arthur provided LPM with his response to Greenberg, dated Friday, in which he pushed back on various claims. Among his arguments, he said the ordinance would neither block development if an assessment framework wasn’t ready, nor prevent city funds from being allocated to two city housing initiatives.

He said in an interview Friday that he believed Greenberg would have vetoed the ordinance if he had genuine concerns about it. Council members can override a mayor’s veto with a two-thirds vote.

“I can't say I'm really surprised that he didn't sign it, I'm more so surprised that he didn't veto it,” Arthur said.

Arthur said Greenberg's administration should begin work on the assessment to avoid unnecessary development delays.

The Anti-Displacement Law requires Louisville Metro’s Office of Housing and Community Development to pick a research center to create the assessment. Metro Council needs to approve both the center and assessment.

“They don't have to do anything except for, put the request for proposals out and cut the check for the institution that's actually going to do the work to make this tool,” he said.

Caitlin Bowling, a spokesperson for the city’s economic development department, said there isn’t a timeline for when a request for proposals will be released, and said it would take time to get good responses.

Greenberg also said in Thursday’s statement that he was working to address displacement through a plan to build 15,000 affordable housing units by 2027. When it was released in October, the plan received some support from local housing leaders, but also prompted comments from them that the city’s lowest-income residents needed to be prioritized.

City officials originally said the plan’s final draft would be released on Dec. 1. Bowling said it would instead likely be presented within the next two weeks to better incorporate an idea raised during public feedback.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.
Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.