Lexington takes steps towards affordable housing funding increase

Lexington, Ky.–Lexington’s affordable housing fund could see a significant increase in funding. The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee voted 8-1 Tuesday in favor of setting aside 1% of the city’s revenues for the program, as well as allocating $750,000 for homelessness.

The fund, which has either preserved or created over 3,000 affordable housing units, was created in 2014 with $3 million. An ordinance set the minimum to be allocated from the general fund at $2 million. Since then, contributions have varied but have typically been between $2 million and $3 million depending on the fiscal year and the city’s finances.

However, the city recently received $121 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, $13.2 million of which has been allocated to the affordable housing fund. The new ordinance, if approved by the full council in June, would increase funding significantly, as 1% of the city’s projected revenue for the current fiscal year of $419 million would be $4.19 million.

Councilman James Brown, chairman of the committee, explained that the task forces, including the Task Force on Neighborhoods in Transition and a subcommittee of Mayor Linda Gorton’s Commission on Racial Justice and Equality, had recommended an increase or consistent funding source for affordable housing. He added that the new funding would not take effect until the budget beginning July 1, 2024.

The affordable housing fund uses either loans or grants to create and keep affordable housing units, leveraging city money with other types of funding, both private and public. Roughly half of the 3,000 units preserved or created by the fund are new to Fayette County. Commissioner of Housing Advocacy and Community Development Charlie Lanter said that does not include the roughly 800 units that are currently under construction and are projected to be finished at the end of the year.

Council Member Fred Brown
(Photo by Amy Wallot)

However, Councilman Fred Brown was the only committee member to vote against the new ordinance, stating that he did not think the city should commit a percentage of revenue to any program. Brown clarified that he supported affordable housing, and Councilwoman Liz Sheehan said she supported the 1% funding for affordable housing but believed the city may need to reevaluate the $750,000 allocated for homelessness programs.

Regardless, Councilman Preston Worley said, “We need to recognize that we have a housing shortage,” emphasizing the importance of addressing affordable housing in the city.

The full council will consider the ordinance in June.

Top photo: Council Member James Brown speaks at a Council work session Tuesday. (LexTV)