Study: Affordable housing options insufficient in Louisville, nationwide

When it comes to providing affordable rental housing for those most in need, Louisville ranks above the national average, but that’s nothing to cheer about.

A recent study by Washington, D.C., think-tank Urban Institute shows a nationwide dearth in affordable housing and breaks down the amount available county by county.

Louisville-Jefferson County had just 32 affordable rental housing units per 100 extremely low-income households from 2011 to 2013, the most recent years data was available; the national average was 28 rental housing units per 100 households during that same time.

The lighter the shade of blue the fewer affordable housing units a county has compared to the households in need. | Graphics by Urban Institute

The lighter the shade of blue the fewer affordable rental housing units a county has compared to the households in need. | Graphic by Urban Institute

Extremely low-income households are classified as people or families who earn less than 30 percent of the average median income, which varies from county to county and town to town. For Jefferson County, the income cutoff to qualify as extremely low-income households was $18,200 a year for a four-person family in 2013.

“It’s not surprising,” said Christie McCravy, executive director of the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund. “Unfortunately, we have been hit with the reality of the shortage of housing for quite some time.”

McCravy added that she is frustrated by government officials who say they are investing in affordable housing, but instead focus on housing for people who make 80 percent of the average median income, which is known as workforce housing. Recently, city officials have debated the merits of providing tax incentives to private apartment developers as long as a percent of the apartments qualify as workforce housing.

“Because the city is investing heavily in the higher-income population, the lower-income populations have suffered,” she said. “We need to even delve deeper.”

The Urban Institute study figures that Louisville is 25,201 rental units shy of filling the need for extremely low-income earners. LAHTF says the city needs 60,000 more affordable housing units, which includes households that earn 80 percent or less of the average median income.

Up until this year, the trust fund was not adequately funded. It had received about $1.5 million in funding since 2008, and advocates, including some Louisville Metro Council members, called for Mayor Greg Fischer to allocate $5 million to the trust fund in his budget for fiscal year 2017. Fischer gave the trust fund $2.5 million.

LAHTF is hosting three training sessions next week to tell potential developers how to apply for a slice of $2.25 million and will start taking applications on Oct. 11, McCravy said.

The sessions will be held:

Tuesday, Sept. 13
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Louisville Urban League-Lecture Room
1535 W. Broadway

Wednesday, Sept. 14
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Middletown Library/Government Center-Room A
200 Juneau Dr

Thursday, Sept. 15
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Southwest Regional Library
725 Dixie Highway

The money will likely be given out in the form of a forgivable loan and is meant to plug the gap between the cost of building affordable housing and the return on investment.

“We don’t anticipate the money taking a long time to be used or spent,” she said.

A rise in need

Even the counties with the highest rate of units per household don’t fill the need in their respective counties. Three Maryland counties — Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester — only have 73 unit per 100 households but are the best in the United States compared with every other county.

Those three counties have seen steady improvement in their numbers during this century, but nationwide, the number of rental units per household has declined since 2000. The national average in 2000 was 37 units per 100 households, the study states.

In 2000, Jefferson County had 43 units per 100 extremely low-income households.

The decrease both nationally and on the local level is a result of the rise in families who qualify as extremely low income and the slow addition of affordable housing units.

In Jefferson County, the number of extremely low-income households jumped 48 percent from 2000 to 2013, according to information from the Urban Institute. Meanwhile, the amount of available housing units only increased 10.5 percent.

In neighboring Floyd County and Clark County, Ind., the number of extremely low-income households rose 47.6 percent and 41.4 percent, respectively. In Floyd County, which includes New Albany, the number of available units increased nearly 40 percent. In Clark County, which includes Jeffersonville and Clarksville, the amount of affordable housing units actually declined 16 percent.

Both were still above the national average in terms of units per 100 households. Floyd County had 47 units and Clark County had 37 units per 100 households.