Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26

Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year calls for appropriating $2.5 million to the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund for the second consecutive year, in addition to $12 million for the Louisville CARES initiative offering loans for developers who produce workforce housing.

However, Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, on Thursday called for shifting $3 million away from Louisville CARES and to the LAHTF, arguing that Metro Council needs to move closer toward its nearly decade-old commitment to provide the fund with $10 million annually.

“I made a commitment earlier this year to seek a more realistic amount of money for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, one which moves us closer to the $10,000,000.00 commitment we made almost a decade ago,” stated Ackerson in a press release. Specifically, he is proposing that Metro Council, as part of its budget proceedings, transfer $3 million from the Louisville CARES appropriation to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, bringing that appropriation to $5.5 million, “moving us closer to the vision of the Metro Council from 2008 and toward a more realistic and permanent fund to serve the needs of this community.”

While funding is used by the LAHTF to create affordable housing for households earning less than 60 percent of the area median income — roughly $40,000 — the Louisville CARES program provides loans for developers to produce workforce housing, which is geared toward those earning less than 80 percent AMI, or $53,000. Fischer’s budget two years ago provided the same $12 million appropriation to CARES, and the $2.5 million given to the LAHTF last year amounted to 25 times the total it had received from Metro Council in all of the previous years combined.

The money appropriated to the LAHFT last year has been used to complete the financing of projects to create or preserve 326 affordable housing units in the city.

Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9 — who has lobbied the Fischer administration in recent years to appropriate the full $10 million to the LAHTF — told IL in a statement that he is “glad to see very significant funding recommended for affordable housing” in Fischer’s budget for the third straight year and is “working with many parties to ensure that the funds are allocated in a way which helps all low-income families.”

According to Hollander, a funding allocation that helps Louisville’s most vulnerable residents would include “an appropriate split between Louisville CARES, which primarily serves families in the 60-80% of area median income range, and the Trust Fund, which by ordinance helps many lower income individuals.”

“It’s too early to say what that split should be, but Councilman Ackerson is right that the Trust Fund needs a higher funding level,” stated Hollander. “We are fortunate to be debating how a very large appropriation for affordable housing is split and not whether we should be funding affordable housing at all. That’s progress.

Beverly Duncan, the chair of CLOUT’s Affordable Housing Committee, told IL in an email that they appreciate Ackerson following through on a commitment he made to more than 1,000 people at CLOUT’s annual Nehemiah Assembly this year, when he pledged to ask the budget committee to increase the LAHTF appropriation to at least $5 million this year. Duncan also noted that Hollander, Councilman Brandon Coan, D-8, and Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith, D-4, all pledged to call for a $10 million appropriation.

However, Duncan added that she is not clear “whether it is possible to transfer funds from CARES to the Trust Fund since the CARES money is bond money, which means it would be loans that wouldn’t make it flexible enough for the Trust Fund to be able to help people/families with annual incomes below $40,000.”

As she did when Fischer first released his proposed budget, Duncan added that CARES money does not have a track record of helping the most vulnerable find housing, which is why a dedicated annual funding source should be identified to provide the full $10 million for the LAHTF.

“This is why we need a dedicated source of funding for the Trust Fund,” stated Duncan, “so that housing for people at all income levels can be a priority for our city and the Trust Fund doesn’t continue to be at the bottom of the list or have to go through this complicated process every year just to get the level of funding that was promised in 2008.”

Christie McCravy, the director of LAHTF, told IL in an email that she is “excited that the funding of affordable housing was made a priority by multiple council members.”

“The 2018 recommendations are unprecedented and it lets me know that council understands the importance of housing and the dire needs in this community,” said McCravy. “My goal, as well as that of the members of the Trust Fund board, is to ensure that there are quality housing developments throughout our community that will create choice and options for all families… regardless of their incomes.”

Metro Council is expected to analyze and debate Fischer’s budget proposal over the next next month and approve an amended budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year in late June.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]