By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
More than 200 people who attended a rally Feb. 28 urged the Metro Council to provide revenue for the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund which aims to create safe and affordable housing options for low-income families.
Advocates for affordable housing — including representatives of Catholic Charities — said during the rally that one in eight public school children in Jefferson County is homeless.
And they called on the council to help solve this problem by approving an ordinance that would provide an estimated $10 million to the affordable housing trust fund each year by raising the insurance premium tax rate.
The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund was established by the Metro Council in 2008 to provide loans and grants to both non-profit and for-profit organizations that create affordable housing units, according to its executive director Rachel Hurst. The Metro Council established it as a private non-profit agency and set a goal for it to be funded at a rate of $10 million a year by public revenue.
But the council has failed since then to assign a source of ongoing funding.
“During the intervening period, the affordable housing problem in Louisville has reached crisis proportions with the waiting list for housing assistance at the Louisville Metro Housing Authority doubling to the level of 25,000 families,” said Spalding University instructor and CLOUT co-president Dr. Christopher Kolb in a press release about the issue. “Most disturbingly, over that same period, JCPS (Jefferson County Public Schools) has seen a doubling of the number of school children experiencing homelessness.”
Metro Council is considering a proposed ordinance that would provide nearly $10 million a year to the fund by raising the local insurance premium tax by one percent (bringing the rate to six percent). Proponents of the increase say it would cost the average household — with home and auto insurance — about $14 per year. The council would need to approve the ordinance at its March 14 meeting in order for the rate increase to take effect this year, Hurst said.
David Dutschke, who works in housing development at Catholic Charities of Louisville, said the increase in the insurance tax would go unnoticed by most homeowners.
“Those bills change a little bit each year, I don’t go back and compare them,” he said. “It would cost homeowners the price of approximately one of those two-liters of soft drinks per month. “We have a responsibility as Catholics to share what we have to help those in need,” Dutschke added. “It’s not going to solve every problem, but it’s a good step in the right direction.”
It’s a step that Hurst said the fund needs if it ever hopes to begin meeting the needs of Jefferson County.
“The city says there is a shortage of 58,000 affordable homes. If you want to solve the issue of homeless children, you can help their parents get a house they can afford,” she said. “This (fund) makes a permanent substantial difference by creating a unit of housing that is decent, safe and affordable.”
Hurst explained that the fund itself isn’t involved in building or renovating homes, but, at least in theory, it provides grants and loans to those who do. The fund’s 13-member board decides how the money is distributed.
“All we have right now is $400,000 that we’ve scratched up. So our funding right now is less flexible,” Hurst added. “We can only give out loans. But if we want to be able to help the poorest of the poor we need to give out grants.”
And that won’t be possible, she added, until the city dedicates a dependable source of revenue to the fund.