Mayor Greg Fischer speaking at a press conference Monday at the Chestnut Street YMCA, where one of several Affordable Housing Trust Fund projects will be funded to create housing units. | Photo by Joe Sonka

The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund announced Monday six recipients of $2.35 million in loans, which it said would complete the financing of projects to create or preserve 326 affordable housing units.

These loans follow Metro Government appropriating $2.5 million to the LAHTF in this year’s budget — the first time the city has made a significant contribution to the fund since its creation in 2008. Though a Metro Council resolution in 2008 pledged to give $10 million annually to the LAHTF, the $2.5 million from this year amounted to 25 times the total it had received in all of the previous years combined.

Highlighting the ability to put such funds to work, LAHTF director Christie McCravy noted that once applications for the loans opened in October, it received 12 applications from developers seeking $4 million in funding within 30 days.

The six projects to receive loans include:

  • $125,000 to Habitat for Humanity to complete funding for the building and selling of five homes on vacant lots in Metro Council Districts 5, 15 and 16.
  • $477,000 to the Chestnut Street Family YMCA — where the press conference was held — for the preservation of 41 single-room housing units at its 102-year old building in District 4.
  • $60,000 to River City Housing to complete funding for the rehab and sale of two homes in District 1.
  • $641,114 to Backtrack Inc. to rehab and preserve 40 senior multifamily units in the Old School Apartments across from Churchill Downs in District 15.
  • $546,886 to Housing Partnership Inc. to acquire and rehab 22 single-family homes in the California, Russell and Portland neighborhoods of the West End.
  • $500,000 to LDG Multifamily LLC to complete funding for the Bristol Bluffs apartment project near the intersection of Billtown Road and the Gene Snyder Freeway, which will produce 216 affordable housing units.

McCravy thanked Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Council for providing the $2.5 million that made these project loans possible, though adding that “I would be remiss if I did not remind you that also in 2008, we all agreed that it would take $10 million a year to actually make a significant impact on our affordable housing needs. So let’s commit to working together to get to that $10 million mark.”

Rendering of the Bristol Bluffs apartment project, which will receive a $500,000 loan from the LAHTF. | Photo by Joe Sonka

Mayor Fischer attended the announcement and said that while the city was not able to devote funds to the LAHTF in the years following the Great Recession, it was now making affordable housing to a priority. He noted the $12 million in the city’s 2015 budget for the Louisville CARES project to create or preserve 1,500 workforce housing units, for those at 80 percent of the Area Median Income ($52,989). The Bristol Bluff project receiving the $500,000 LAHTF loan has already received $4 million from the Louisville CARES program, as well as funding from the Kentucky Housing Corp. and tax-exempt bonds.

Five of the projects funded by the LAHTF loans announced Monday will serve households making 50 percent or less of the AMI.

“We all know that too many families are devoting too much of their monthly income to keep a roof over their head, and sometimes that is a decision between a roof over their head or medicine in their cabinet or shoes for their baby’s feet,” Fischer said. “And I don’t think any of us are proud to live in a country or a city that has that quandary… And these funds are going to help families all across the city, from Portland to Shively to Fern Creek and beyond. So it’s important to us that we have a geographical spread on this.”

Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, who pushed for at least $5 million to be included for the LAHTF in this year’s budget, noted at the press conference that Louisville still needed many more affordable housing units, as “thousands of people on long waiting lists worry about paying the rent, while also paying medical bills, putting food on the table and equipping their children as they go to school.”

The LAHTF estimates that Louisville has a shortfall of 60,000 affordable housing units, with 21,000 households currently on waiting lists for subsidized or public housing.

The Metropolitan Housing Coalition’s annual report released last week shows that 15 percent of households in Jefferson County had an annual income under $15,000 and 24 percent of families with children earned below the federal poverty rate. The downward trend in income in recent years has coincided with a rise in the Fair Market Rent, as nearly 28 percent of the total workforce in the Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area (including surrounding counties) earn below the amount needed to afford a one-bedroom unit at FMR ($644), and 43 percent cannot afford a two-bedroom unit at FMR ($817).

Hollander said the six projects receiving gap financing showed just a hint of what the city could accomplish in tackling affordable housing needs, and that more such funding would accelerate reaching that goal.

“The trust fund’s experience this year proves that there are good projects waiting to be built, if the funds are available,” Hollander said. “There is a need, and now we have shown there is the capacity to fill it… We resolve to continue to work for the thousands more who need a safe, decent and affordable place to live.”

Fischer told IL after the press conference that it was too soon to say if the LAHTF would receive $2.5 million again in next year’s budget or receive more, but “we’ll certainly be pushing it as a priority.”

“It’s a balance with all of the other objectives, but it’s certainly a priority,” Fischer said. “Last year the council really focused on paving. Last week with the budget surplus we put more emphasis on public safety. And we’re starting the budget process here in the next couple of weeks, so we’ll start at it again.”

Asked if the lack of affordable housing over many years in Louisville had played a role in the recent and dramatic increase in violent crime, Fischer said he hadn’t seen a direct correlation between the two, though, he added: “I think there’s a common symptom there, that when people turn to selling dope on the street, frequently it’s because they don’t have another mechanism to earn an income. So likewise, not being able to afford housing relates to that income issue, as well.”

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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]