Louisville Magazine

MAR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 79 It's worth noting that low-income housing, like what's in much of west Louisville, is scarce. Poor families often scramble to make rent in a place that's priced beyond their means. e recent OHCD assessment shows about 31,000 units are needed in Louisville for families living at 30 percent of the city's median income (of $71,500 for a family of four) or $21,450. To adequately serve families making a slightly higher income (about $36,000 for a family of four), Louisville needs an additional 22,500 units. Kellie Watson, the city's first chief equity officer, hears trepidation from some west Louisvillians. "It is very legitimate," she says. "We are really having sincere efforts to try to make sure that we protect this investment without displacement." Policies can help. And Watson says the city is evaluating ideas like rent control, a renter-equity program or a community land trust. A renter-equity program offers tenants affordable rent and, essentially, cash bonuses for following lease agreements, challenging the idea that only homeowners can earn some wealth while staying put under one roof. With a community land trust, a nonprofit buys land, holding it in a trust for the neighborhood. e nonprofit then enters into a land lease with homebuyers. Homes maintain affordability because the land trust caps appreciation value, making it affordable for the next buyer who may come around. Lexington has a community land trust that typically prices its homes at about 25 percent below the appraised value. A land trust can be expensive because the nonprofit needs a ton of cash to absorb land. It also requires the property valuation administrator to get on board and maintain a tax rate that's reasonable, even if the land trust sits in the center of a real estate hotspot. A property-tax moratorium is often proposed at community meetings in west Louisville. Mary Ellen Wiederwohl is chief of the city's economic-development agency, Louisville Forward, and she says creating a moratorium that would help homeowners ward off rising property values over a long period of time requires legislative action. "Property taxation is very specifically governed by the state constitution," she explains. "So tools used by other cities enacted by local ordinance may require a constitutional change in Kentucky." In other words: Don't expect speedy policy solutions. eresa Zawacki co-leads Russell: A Place of Promise, an initiative funded by a $5-million grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. Its goal: Create ways for Russell residents to get in on the boon and carve out their own asset or wealth-building opportunities. One project includes possibly turning a 200,000-square-foot former cigar factory at 30th and Madison streets into a commercial and residential space that functions as a cooperative. Russell: A Place of Promise is still new, having launched last fall. Zawacki says hiring outreach workers this spring is a critical next step to collecting concerns and hopes from residents. Zawacki does say it would be "probably disingenuous" to imply that her program or any other program will guarantee that all who want to stay in Russell will get to. "Because of the history of this neighborhood and, I hate to say it this way, but the lack of policy decisions that are immediately accessible, Russell residents, and other residents of neighborhoods that are experiencing significant investment, may find themselves in a position where they have tough choices to make because they can't afford to stay," she says. "Or they don't feel like they have the option to stay." A few years ago, Joshua Poe's independently researched project, titled "Redlining Louisville: e History of Race, Class, and Real Estate," helped spur a community-wide reckoning with the racist practices that left Louisville and most other cities segregated by race and class. Redlining — the discriminatory practice of denying loans in certain neighborhoods, based largely on racial makeup — dates to the early '30s, but the repercussions of such disinvestment exist today. Robbing neighborhoods of value made it difficult for black families to build assets, to create savings that could be passed down through generations. According to the New York Times, for every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold $5.04. And the Institute for Policy Studies reported that between 1983 and 2013, the median wealth of black households declined 75 percent, while the median wealth for white households increased 14 percent. (Redlining is not the single cause but is a contributor.) In the '60s and '70s, urban renewal, then touted as a way of clearing blighted city blocks, decimated black neighborhoods, including a once-vibrant district of Russell dubbed "Louisville's Harlem," known for its popular nightlife and black-owned businesses. Poe showed slides during a presentation at a forum in early February at St. Stephen Baptist Church, in west Louisville's California neighborhood. e event focused on "philanthropic redlining," a practice in which the super- wealthy overlook black-led foundations and nonprofits embedded in minority communities in favor of more widely known, white-led organizations. BY ANNE MARSHALL

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