Taking action

Three agencies unite to create a 20-year plan for fair housing in Louisville

Nov 14, 2012 at 6:00 am

A half-century has passed since the Civil Rights movement, yet racial division persists in Louisville’s housing patterns. According to a 2010 report by the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, Louisville ranked as the 26th most segregated of 150 metropolitan areas, with 45 percent of Louisville residents living in extreme segregation.

In recognition of its 50th anniversary, the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission just announced a partnership with the University of Louisville’s Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research and the Metropolitan Housing Coalition. Together, they’ll create a 20-year action plan for fair housing. Using history as a guide, the report will target antiquated land use policies that confine multi-family housing to pockets of the county, as well as cutbacks to subsidized housing and discriminatory practices in the mortgage industry.

Funded by a $73,000 Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, the report should be completed by the end of the 2013 fiscal year. A large portion of the grant focuses on educating immigrant, LGBT and minority populations on fair housing laws. LEO chatted with Metro Human Relations Commission Director Carolyn Miller-Cooper about this project.

LEO: Why is it that fair housing is an issue that’s still coming up in 2012 in Louisville?

Carolyn Miller-Cooper: Well, obviously, there’s an issue with fair housing when you start looking at what has taken place with our local school system. And one of the things that has come out recently is the report that was done by … Gary Orfield. (Orfield is co-director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.) In one of the recent reports that he prepared for Jefferson County Public Schools, (he) stated that the only way to have diversity, and more focus on local schools with minimum transportation, is to facilitate housing integration. So we have a housing pattern in this community that has lended itself to people being in segregated neighborhoods. Now, there are multiple reasons for that. Some of the history going back facilitated that, the lack of affordable housing throughout Jefferson County, and you also have playing into that where multiple-family housing is located.

LEO: When someone hears 20-year action plan, it sounds like something that could be produced and then sit on a shelf.

CMC: No, no, no, no, no. My goal in this is that we’re going to have S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound) goals … I’m asking the ABI (Anne Braden Institute) and MHC (Metropolitan Housing Coalition) that we set some parameters in there so that, like, in year one, you know, there should be a report or some type of mechanism where we say yes we’ve attained this or no we have not, and here’s what we need to do so that it doesn’t sit on a shelf and collect dust.

LEO: What is the goal once this plan comes out. How will it be utilized?

CMC: We’re asking for community input in producing this plan … We want the academic piece, we want the policy piece, but we also want the community input. Then, yes, it will be given to the mayor … The goal is to keep the conversation going and to look at the action plan and to see where we are, you know, in a year, in five years, to see if we’re on track and to see if any progress is being made in the community.

LEO: Tell us a little about the Metro Human Relations Commission. How did it get started? Its roots are in fair housing, right?

CMC: Yes, at the time the agency became an agency in 1962, the main thing was the public accommodations ordinance, where African-Americans and other minorities were not able to go into places like movie theaters and, you know, eat at certain restaurants and so forth. And so that began the movement. Housing was also an issue during that time. In general, the agency was created out of the Civil Rights movement.

The Metropolitan Housing Coalition will hold a community conversation on fair housing on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. in the Centennial Room at the Louisville Free Public Library, 301 York St.