Who Is Affected Most By Evictions In Louisville?

Hint: Some are getting evictions attached to their records before legally able to rent

Apr 30, 2024 at 3:18 pm
Single mothers and children find themselves disproportionately affected by evictions.
Single mothers and children find themselves disproportionately affected by evictions. Adobe

In Louisville, homelessness has hit especially hard for those in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, especially the West End of Louisville. Those affected most by the shift as of 2024 include Black families, especially single mothers and their children.

They are losing their homes at a fast rate, with 83% of Black or African American youth having a higher risk of reporting homelessness in the U.S. than white youth. Young people across the United States are losing the place they call home more often than ever before, with about 50% of all unhoused youth becoming homeless for the first time in the past year.

Karena Cash, the Policy and Research Director for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in an interview with LEO that the disproportionate effect of eviction on youth cannot be understated.

“It’s really really traumatizing to be kicked out of your house,” she said. “It’s traumatizing to come home from school and see all of your stuff out on the curb, and it’s really traumatizing to not have a stable place to go at the end of the day where you know you’re safe."

Closer to home, Jefferson County residents face eviction more than double the amount of renters across the country.

In the United States, out of 100 renters, 7.8 are evicted every year, with the state of Kentucky close to the national average at just 7.6. However, Jefferson County sees nearly 16 evictions for every 100 renters in the area.

Chanelle Helm, who works to “fill in the gaps” with Black Lives Matter Louisville, said in an interview with LEO that her work ties primarily with helping families find homes, especially with the meteoric rise in homelessness in the city since the COVID-19 pandemic.

How are evictions affecting children disproportionately?

Helm said children who face homelessness feel the effects of an unsteady housing situation quickly, and that trauma can bleed into other areas of their lives, including school.

“That inconsistency builds on different traumas,” she said. “They’re just acting out from inconsistencies at home.”

Across the United States, nearly 4.2 million young people experience a form of homelessness each year, and as that number continues to rise, nearly half of those young people will experience homelessness more than once, with a large portion stemming from eviction.

As homelessness continues to rise in America’s youth, Jefferson County had seen a slight decrease over the past decade up until 2021, but homelessness still persists for minority families on the West End of Louisville.

In 2016, nearly 21% of all children under 18 were below the federal poverty level according to the Kids Count County Profile from Kentucky Youth Advocates, a nonprofit organization that advocates “for policies that give children the best possible opportunities for a brighter future…”

The latest data (from 2021) showed a slight decrease, with just over 19% of children under the poverty line.

New research from Princeton, Rutgers and the US Census Bureau shows that children are impacted to a greater extent by evictions than any other group, showing that the younger children are, the greater their risk of eviction which can lead to many issues down the road.

Cash said the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) implication of eviction can be extremely damaging to children across the state of Kentucky and all across the country.

As rental prices have surged over the past year and renters are finding it harder to find stable housing, Cash says the weight of an eviction notice becomes heavier and heavier for families and their children, who will also have that eviction on their record no matter if they are newborn or 18 years old.

Louisville rent growth over the past year from April 2023 to April 2024. - Apartmentlist.com
Louisville rent growth over the past year from April 2023 to April 2024.

“(Eviction) also makes it significantly more difficult for you to get housing in the future, because whenever landlords are going to rent to someone, they are looking at their eviction history to see if you are a reliable person to rent to,” she said. “Even if someone has an eviction that is 10, 20 years old, that eviction still pops up…”

Helm says the rental crisis stemming from inflated housing prices within the past two years has caused a wave of tenants not being able to afford their monthly rent.

“Everyone should be somewhere where they can afford," she said. “Right now, we do not have any solutions from the redlining that has decimated the West End and [it] continues to be a space where we are always getting the short end of the stick. We need some rent controls to take place now.”

What is the city doing about homelessness?

In 2020, when a national rent moratorium was put into place, many families across Louisville were able to survive without the headache of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the moratorium ended in July 2021, nearly 21,000 households in Louisville owed almost $63 million.

The latest budget proposal from Mayor Craig Greenberg (D), who Helms said should leave office because “he is a developer that does not understand that affordable housing applies to everyone, and not a select few,” has $32 million going towards helping homeless families in Louisville out of the $1.1 billion in proposed budget funds.

That would be just under 3% of the entire budget.

That money is set to create or preserve “15,000 units of affordable housing units across the city by 2027,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Nearly half ($15 million) of the money in the $32 million will go towards the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which Greenberg’s office says will give Louisvillians “long-term housing.”

A pie chart of Louisville Metro Expenditures for 2024-2025. - City of Louisville
City of Louisville
A pie chart of Louisville Metro Expenditures for 2024-2025.

$238,000 will go to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority to support its most “urgent issues,” with Greenberg stating his administration will continue to work with LMHA to secure more Section 8 vouchers for socioeconomically disadvantaged people throughout the city.

What can Kentucky do to keep families safe from eviction?

Right now, there are no laws to keep children from having an eviction on their record after their parents are evicted from their homes. Cash said this could have consequences down the road for future generations of renters.

“It’s making it a lot more difficult for families to find safe housing,” she said. “Whenever families are able to get into housing, we see worse quality of housing. Things like lead paint, mold, asbestos that ultimately impact their long-term health outcomes.”

In an article for Kentucky Youth Advocates, Cash points to other states, like Utah, Texas and Kentucky’s neighbor, Indiana that have a process to expunge evictions, “similar to the expungement of other legal proceedings like felonies and bankruptcies.”

“Additionally, Kentucky should prohibit minors from being named on eviction filings so young children do not have their housing stability threatened before they can legally rent,” Cash said in the article.

And though families — especially in Louisville — have the right to counsel, which helps them get their evictions dismissed, that still does not take those evictions off their record. Cash says this could hurt their chances of finding housing in the future.

In 2022, nearly 72% of about 16,000 evictions filed in Jefferson County were dismissed, but were still on those families’ records.

Helm said in an interview that though some efforts to fix homelessness are working, it is still not enough for the number of homeless people suffering in Louisville.

“What does it mean to have affordable housing?” she said. “... I think we need to have very robust conversations, and they cannot be only organizationally done. They need to be cross-sector. We have to bring people together to be able to name those things. We have to bring these people together to talk about what housing needs are (in Louisville).”