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Survey: Affordable Housing Is Residents’ Top Priority For Local COVID-19 Relief

J. Tyler Franklin

The need for more affordable housing and resources for residents who are homeless was the number one priority for respondents to a Louisville Metro Council survey on how to spend new federal COVID-19 relief.

Nearly 3,500 people participated in the survey, according to data released late Wednesday. Of those, 1,009 listed “affordable/government supported housing” in their top three priorities for how Louisville should spend the $388 million it expects to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed by Congress earlier this year. Metro Council also held three recent in-person meetings across the city, finding similar results.

At Thursday’s Budget Committee meeting, Council Member Jecorey Arthur (D-4) underscored the importance of addressing affordable housing with the ARPA money. Arthur pointed toa 2019 housing needs assessment paid for by Louisville Metro, which found that there’s a shortage of 31,412 housing units for the area’s lowest income residents. Meeting that need would cost more than $3.5 billion.

“This crisis is not going away,” Arthur said. “To my understanding, the state and the feds are not helping us with it. So, the funding we have right now needs to take priority for that exactly.”

Within the category of affordable housing, survey respondents said Louisville’s biggest need is supportive housing for residents who are unsheltered. That was followed by general support for building more affordable housing and funding programs that support residents looking to become homeowners. Respondents overwhelmingly chose “helping find stable housing,” “emergency/crisis housing” and “financial help for tenants/landlords to cover rent and security deposits” as top funding priorities.

The survey also asked people to select which quasi-governmental organizations should get a chunk of Louisville’s ARPA funding. These groups did not qualify for some of the direct federal pandemic assistance.

The top choice was funding for the Louisville Zoo, followed closely by the Kentucky Science Center and Waterfront Park.

While most of the survey respondents were residents of Jefferson County, it was not a requirement for participation. Some respondents lived in the Kentucky and Southern Indiana Counties surrounding Louisville Metro.

How these survey responses will translate into funding is still an open question. Budget Committee Chairman Bill Hollander (D-9) said Thursday that he plans to file a resolution next week that outlines Metro Council’s top priority areas. Louisville Metro will then ask organizations and individuals for funding proposals within those areas.

“The consensus of the committee at the last meeting [was] we wanted to do something transformative things,” Hollander said. “We did not view this money as something that should be distributed in small amounts.”

Hollander said he expects Metro Council to discuss and amend the funding priorities in the coming weeks, with a final vote at its August 26 meeting.

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