In what he described as a “historic” announcement, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said Thursday that the city will invest more than $30 million in addressing homelessness and affordable housing.
The funds will be split between eviction prevention and creating new affordable housing units. Additionally, Greenberg said, the city will build a “community care campus” in the Smoketown neighborhood on land it has agreed to purchase for $6.9 million.
Greenberg said the initiatives “should change the face of our city, allow us to confront some of the leading causes of chronic homelessness, help keep people in their homes and provide much needed, permanent, affordable housing.”
He added: “I’m very excited to announce a plan that we believe is unique, [and] something that we believe is the first of its kind in the country that will be a national model for other cities [to] follow.”
Rental Assistance and Eviction Prevention
Under the plan, $8.25 million will be funneled into immediate eviction prevention assistance to keep people in their homes. The Association of Community Ministries will be given $5 million to provide direct rental assistance to thousands of local families and individuals facing eviction, specifically for households who have applied for assistance through the Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund.
In December, Louisville was allocated $38 million in eviction relief funds by Gov. Andy Beshear. Greenberg has faced criticism in recent weeks for “sitting” on those funds while thousands faced potential evictions. On Thursday, he appeared to acknowledge these concerns that many have expressed.
“We have been working as fast as we can, and we know that far too many people in our community have been stressed and worried as they have applied for funding over the past several months for rental assistance,” Greenberg said. “To those who have applied: thank you for doing the right thing, and on behalf of our state and local governments, I am sorry it has taken so long. Moving forward, we are going to continue to act with the haste that we have so far, to continue to provide the support that we can.”
The Louisville Urban League will also be receiving $2 million to assist clients with security deposits and their first month’s rent starting Feb. 20. Another $1.25 million will go towards “mediation assistance and legal fees for families and individuals navigating the complexities of eviction court,” according to a press release sent out by the mayor’s office.
Louisville Urban League President Kish Cumi Price said she hopes the funds will help address “gaping holes” in the current relief system.
“I will also attest to the fact that I know what it’s like to be on the side of not knowing how you’re going to provide for your family and not knowing how you’re going to have what you need, so this is a really core issue that we need to be solving quickly,” said Price.
Greenberg said those who are eligible for eviction prevention assistance should have already been contacted by email within the past few days, but that they will continue to reach out to those who qualify.
“Community Care” Campus Creation
On Thursday, Greenberg also announced that the city has reached an agreement to purchase property for a “community care campus” in Smoketown for $6.9 million, which the city says is below the property’s assessed value.
“This space, when it’s complete, will accommodate well over 150 people. There will be centralized nursing stations. There will be securely locked medical supplies and prescriptions, a kitchen, a laundry facility and much more,” said Greenberg, adding that the space will also offer temporary housing.
The proposed care campus will include a “medical respite facility” that will act as a safe place for hospitals to discharge currently homeless patients who require ongoing medical support. The city hopes that the campus will “bridge the gap” for homeless people who are discharged from hospitals, pointing out that the average wait time for a shelter bed or permanent housing is 90 days.
The property is alongside Breckinridge Street and bordered by Floyd and Brook streets, which is currently home to the Vu Guesthouse hotel and the C2 event space. It co-located with the Hope Village, the city-sanctioned “Safe Outdoor Space” for individuals experiencing homelessness that opened last year.
One of the property’s buildings will require at least $9 million in renovations, Greenberg said, and the overall cost of the campus remains unclear.
Riggs Lewis, system vice president for Norton Healthcare, said the location was settled on by partners after analyzing where the homeless population lives. He added that 80% of the homeless live in the I-65 corridor near downtown Louisville. The city is partnering with Norton Healthcare, UofL Health, the Coalition for the Homeless and other organizations in creating the campus.
Affordable Housing Units to Come
The final leg of Greenberg’s new plan is to address the shortage of over 30,000 units of affordable housing in the city. To do that, he said, $24 million will be put towards permanent affordable housing
Those efforts will focus on creating opportunities for households that are below 50% of the area’s median income.
In Greenberg’s mayoral campaign last year he said he would build 15,000 affordable housing units and prioritize the development of vacant lots and abandoned buildings.
The city is currently seeking partners to build these affordable housing units. The applications for those interested are due March 10.
“We will move as quickly as possible after that and hope to make very rapid announcements about how that money will be deployed, so that these units of housing that we hope to leverage with other sources of funding can get in the ground, can be built, and can open to start changing people’s lives immediately,” said Greenberg