The Baxter and Highlands Station are market-rate apartment developments that will house residents in roughly 450 apartments. A small percentage are workforce housing. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

This post has been updated.

In its annual housing report released today, the Metropolitan Housing Coalition raised concerns that the rising number of renters in the Louisville MSA could place a further crunch on the availability of affordable housing for the region’s low-income individuals and families.

“Additional higher income households entering the rental market could result in more competition for units, fewer units available to lower-income renters, and the development of more high-end units to meet demand of upper-income renters, all of which are trends observed at the national level,” the 2017 State of Metropolitan Housing Report states. Almost 14 percent of households earning nearly $80,000 or more were renters in 2015, up from 9.1 percent in 2006.

According to the most recently available numbers, the Louisville MSA needs about 24,000 more affordable housing units to fill the gap in housing for households earning less than $20,000 annually. There are 50,334 households that earn less than $20,000 a year in the MSA, and 85.1 percent of them are spending more than 30 percent of that income on housing and utilities.

The report states that an affordable rental for someone earning $20,000 or less a year is roughly $500 a month. Nearly 60 percent of the rental units in the Louisville MSA range from $500 to $999 a month.

In Jefferson County alone, there are only 18,741 such units, which is just more than half of what is needed, according to the Metropolitan Housing Coalition.

In the report, the Metropolitan Housing Coalition calls out recent instances in which affordable housing has been threatened or people have spoken out against affordable housing, including a plan to tear down 600 public housing units in New Albany and backlash from Prospect residents over affordable senior housing development Prospect Cove. The developer of Prospect Cove filed a lawsuit against the city.

NIMBYism and zoning regulations “severely limit where low-income renters can live and perpetuate existing race and class-based segregation patterns,” the report states.

The coalition said that zoning and city planning policies in Jefferson County enacted decades and decades ago continued to segregate the city by race and economic class and that action must be taken in the new 20-year comprehensive plan to reverse the impacts of those regulations.

Cathy Hinko

“As we are envisioning our built environment for the next twenty years through the Comprehensive Plan, Louisville needs to acknowledge that past zoning, policies, incentives and benefits to developers only increased segregation and aggressively counter past practices to create housing for those with low wages or fixed incomes throughout Jefferson County,” Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said in an email about the report. “Since we know what has NOT worked, to continue on the same path is a form of lazy racism and discrimination against fair housing protected classes.

“Further, the entire metro area has seen an increase in renters and we need to value all households, not refer to renters as ‘nuisances’ that must be ‘abated’ as we currently do in our Comprehensive Plan,” she continued.

The Metropolitan Housing Coalition recommends the following in its report:

  • Create mandatory inclusionary zones for affordable housing.
  • Require rental housing developers to including affordable housing in their projects that receive government incentives.
  • Let developers meet affordable housing requirements by developing units, paying fees to the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund or investing the preservation of existing affordable housing.
  • Offer more incentives for efforts to help those earning 50 percent below the average median income of $66,400.
  • Establish short-term, low-interest loans for those in danger of eviction.
  • Create or bolster programs that help low-income homeowners maintain their homes.
  • Support educational programing about redlining to change negative perceptions about affordable housing residents.

The report was released today at an event at the Metro United Way.

“If we are going to ever reach our potential in life, housing is a need we all have,” John Nevitt, senior manager of family stability for Metro United Way, said at the event.

As part of the new report, the Metropolitan Housing Coalition also worked with high school students to create informational videos about housing discrimination. The videos, which will be advertised on TARC buses, direct people to call the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission and Fair Housing Council for help if they suspect that they’ve been discriminated against.

Kendall Boyd, director of the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission, said he hit the ground sprinting after being appointed to the position in August.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said. “Fair housing is under attack in this country.

Read the full report here later today.

[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]