Louisville Magazine

MAR 2017

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 3.17 73 organization Family Scholar House. "is right here used to be an ice cream place," she says. "ere was a meat store on the corner. ere were several department stores. is one had shoes. is was a music store that used to be called Vine Re- cords. ey had a speaker outside and you would walk past and it would draw you in to go buy the latest music. We used to have this policeman who would walk the beat, actually walk the beat, and it was so wholesome. We used to call him 'Buddy.'" A group of kids out of school are walk- ing down the street with backpacks on. "If my granddaughter was in the car with me, she wouldn't feel comfortable stepping out and walking like these kids are," Bray says. e girl is 12 and grew up with Bray in Oldham County. When they come to visit family in west Louisville and stop at Kro- ger, Bray says, "She says to my husband, 'Hold my hand.'" In the early 1960s, Bray's mother bought a house in Parkland on South 28th Street for $10,000 with tip money she had earned as a waitress. Bray, who is in her 50s, was 18 months old at the time. ey were the first African-American family to move onto the block. We count the vacant lots and boarded-up houses. "at was where the last white person on this block lived," she says, pointing to a house. "Year after year it was white flight, and before you knew it, it was all black." She says that by the time she was eight or nine years old, all the white people on the block had moved away. en, she says, it was like a vacuum. e segregation laws were wiped away, but the black community who had owned and supported their own businesses then began to shop at white-owned businesses as well. Not getting many white customers in exchange, black-owned businesses suffered. e tobacco plants and other economic anchors shuttered over the years. Fewer jobs, more crime. A mostly African-Amer- ican, mostly lower- to middle-class popu- lation with fewer and fewer opportunities. And it's been this way for 50 years. A nursing assistant and her husband first bought the Market Street house (the one that the Codes and Regulations crew has been boarding up) in 1992 and held onto it for more than 20 years. In the Google street-view image from November 2015, there's a broom on the front porch and clothes hanging on the chain-link fence. At some point, the husband died. A year ago, land records show, the woman granted power of attorney for all of her financial matters to two friends. At that time she was living in the South End. Not long after, the complaints and liens began. In October she died. She has siblings who would be her heirs, depending on what is in her will, or whether or not she left one. However, she is still listed as the owner. e Codes and Regulations and Vacant and Public Property departments send notices to those listed as the primary contact according to the Property Valua- tion Administrator. For almost a year, the notices have gone to the vacant Market Street property. is kind of situation where nobody takes ownership of deceased relatives' properties used to be the main reason properties would become vacant and abandoned. "In our innocent days, that's what we talked about," says Cathy Hinko, executive director of the affordable-hous- ing advocacy agency Metropolitan Hous- ing Coalition. She says that having a will has in the past been a more sophisticated process that's more commonly seen in af- fluent neighborhoods. By the mid-2000s, vacancy took a dramatic turn. Bray doesn't recall seeing these over- grown lots and the volume of boarded-up houses before the late 1990s. ere aren't Courier-Journal articles on the widespread issue of vacant homes before the mid- 2000s. Hinko started to notice a trend in the early part of that decade. e 2003 MHC report tells the story of an elderly African-American man who had owned his west Louisville home for more than 30 years. When he sought to make repairs on the house, he got tangled up in predatory lending and ended up facing foreclosure, owing $47,000 on a house valued at $20,000. He got help from the Legal Aid Society, which assists low-income people, but his case was not uncommon, MHC found. e report called the increase in the rate of mortgage foreclosures "star- tling." e 2004 report states: "By far the most dramatic news in this report is the continued, significant rise in foreclosures in the region." In 1996, 437 foreclosures were started in Louisville Metro. In 2003, there were 2,161. "People — bankers, real- tors — were telling me, 'No, you have the wrong number,'" Hinko says. "I'm like, I don't have the wrong number. at's what's filed in court." In 2016, the city had 2,167 foreclosures. You can look at maps of the data to see where clusters of foreclosures have occured — west Louisville. e same area where poverty is high and the pop- ulation is 77 percent African-American, which includes 60-percent-white Portland. e same area with streets of boarded-up, dilapidated houses. While the housing market and prop- erty values have recovered overall, west Louisville hasn't seen such a turnaround. Bray says she has a property that at one time appraised for $72,000. "Today it would be hard-pressed for me to sell it for 30," she says. According to census data, from 2011-2015 median property values in several East End neighborhoods collectively increased 9 percent. In that same time, median property values in West End neighborhoods collectively decreased 11 percent. e more foreclosures occur on a block, the harder it is to get a good appraisal and the more it affects the values of other houses, bringing down values in entire neighborhoods. Bray's brother lives in their moth- er's house today. "I probably could get $40,000, maybe $50,000 for it, but that's not a lot of growth in 50 years," she says. "If you took that same home and put it out in the Highlands, it'd probably be worth $300,000. When you look at that big wealth gap, you can see how the According to census data, from 2011-2015 median property values in several East End neighborhoods collectively increased 9 percent. In that same time, median property values in West End neighborhoods collectively decreased 11 percent.

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