Councilman Hollander calls for renewed effort for a permanent funding source for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund
Louisville – In an op-ed published online today in The Courier-Journal, Councilman Bill Hollander called for a renewed effort to fully fund the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund (LAHTF).
Find Funding for Affordable Housing
Kenneth Winfield wanted to get off the streets and into an apartment. Despite the best efforts of the St. John Center for Homeless Men to obtain a housing voucher for him, Mr. Winfield had not found housing when he died outside in the bitter cold in Louisville on Thursday night.
Mr. Winfield was not alone in his wait. The Metropolitan Housing Coalition reports there are approximately 3,320 applicants on Louisville Metro Housing Authority’s waiting list for public housing units and 17,746 more waiting for a housing voucher. Low-income people with disabilities often face waits of several years. Homelessness also strikes many others in our community: Jefferson County Public Schools reports 6,846 homeless students, while the Coalition for the Homeless has documented 360 known homeless veterans in our city.
These numbers represent just the most dire cases. Throughout Louisville Metro, many people not counted as homeless cannot afford decent housing. In walking last year in my district in east Louisville, which in many ways is thriving, I saw seniors and families living in deplorable conditions. And housing issues affect those of us who are safe and warm: In nearly every neighborhood, residents told me their biggest concerns were nearby vacant and abandoned houses.
Louisville’s plan to solve these problems goes back to 2006, when a community task force, including representatives of area banks, the Building Industry Association, Realtors and non-profit leaders, recommended the creation of an affordable housing trust fund. Such funds are used throughout the country because of their flexibility in providing grants and loans to developers and non-profit organizations for the most pressing housing-related activities.
The key to successful housing trust funds is an ongoing dedicated source of public funding, so that the fund and developers can make future plans for addressing ongoing community needs. The 2006 plan determined that a trust fund for Louisville should have public funding of $10 million annually, an investment that would have a strong economic impact by creating jobs, increasing wages and business income, and generating more tax revenue.
In 2008, Republicans and Democrats on the Metro Council voted 25-1 to create the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund (LAHTF), to fund organizations that address the needs of low and moderate-income families and individuals for housing and housing-related services. The ordinance specifically mentions helping seniors on fixed incomes, persons with disabilities and single-parent families.
The council’s ordinance committed the “the Mayor and Metro Council [to] endeavor to establish revenue sources and appropriate funds for deposit in the Fund from time to time,” directed the LAHTF board to “work to create a dedicated, renewable source of public revenue” and emphasized the importance of annually investing $10 million in affordable housing projects.
The board, which includes representatives of business, non-profits, government and individual citizens — appointed by the mayor and approved by the Metro Council — has worked diligently for years to research and recommend a larger, permanent source of public funding, but no dedicated funding source has yet been created.
So far, periodic allocations have allowed Louisville’s trust fund to assist with senior housing and other developments and it is currently focusing on the rehabilitation of vacant and abandoned properties. In January, it announced an allocation of $963,500 to make 29 homes available to first-time homeowners, with half of the money used to convert vacant and abandoned properties into single-family homes.
Unfortunately, that will make just a tiny dent in Louisville’s needs. With no dedicated funding source, the total funds available to LAHTF haven’t reached even close to $10 million over the past 7 years, much less the $10 million annually that would begin to solve our housing problems. With that in mind, the seniors, people with disabilities, families, veterans and individuals who are waiting for housing deserve a full discussion of how to fully fund the trust fund each year.
When bitterly cold weather strikes and we read of a death on our streets, our compassionate instinct is to contribute items and funds to make those in need a little warmer. We should do that.
But we should also fulfill the mission our community agreed upon years ago and fund the LAHTF. What many of our neighbors really need is a safe, decent and affordable place to live.
Bill Hollander represents District 9 on the Louisville Metro Council.