The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund is allocating nearly $1 million to local housing organizations to provide 29 affordable homes to first-time homeowners in eight Metro Council districts, most of which will be completed and occupied within the next year. The LAHTF received the one-time grant in the city budget last year via the federal HOME Program, but the organization still seeks a dedicated annual stream of public funds in the amount of $10 million, which the city promised to deliver nearly 10 years ago.
LAHTF is allocating the money to Habitat for Humanity, River City Housing and the Housing Partnership Inc. to convert vacant and abandoned properties into quality single-family homes in council districts 1-6, 9 and 15. Additionally, half of the money goes toward assisting low-income first-time homeowners by providing forgivable loans for down payments and closing costs.
Rachel Hurst, executive director of LAHTF, says that while they are grateful to be given the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do with the funds, the one-time amount doesn’t put a large dent in the city’s affordable housing crisis.
“It’s very nice to get these one-time allocations, and we certainly put them to work right away,” says Hurst. “But when you’re talking about housing, people make their plans for affordable housing a couple of years down the road. The reason that a permanent source of funding is so important is you have to know that source will be available a couple of years down the road so everyone can scale up what they’re doing so we can begin to meet the increased needs of affordable housing.”
Though the city’s affordable housing task force in 2006 unanimously recommended a 1 percent increase in insurance premiums to create a dedicated $10 million in annual funds for LAHTF, such a proposal has stalled for many years in Metro Council. However, Hurst is optimistic that a breakthrough may come soon, as city leaders craft their budget for the next fiscal year.
“I think there’s definitely a lot of hope for the coming year,” says Hurst. “I can’t say anything specific or definitive about the timeline, or how, but we definitely have increased the number of supporters, and we have a lot of people who are in the community who’ve been advocating for this for 10 years. So we’re ready to get over the finish line, we have a lot of support in Metro Council, and we’re just really excited to have the support of Mayor Fischer as well.”
While some have hoped a local option sales tax — if such legislation passes — could be directed to LAHTF, Hurst says this is not feasible, as it would have to go toward individual projects. Even if such funds could be directed to LAHTF, that money wouldn’t be available for another two to three years at the earliest, and Hurst says the city already has waited far too long to address the need for funding.
“We’ve already been waiting 10 years in Louisville to do this,” says Hurst. “And Metro Council has committed for quite a time that they would fund this endeavor to establish $10 million in dedicated public revenue annually. So we just can’t delay another three years while 92,000 Louisvillians are in unaffordable homes and JCPS school kids continue to be homeless.”