Lexington’s Housing Needs Shouldn’t Be Undermined by a Governance Fumble

The Council’s failure to follow the rulebook on boundary expansion underscores the necessity for astute governance.

by Paul Oliva

Lexington is in dire need of housing. As the city grows, so does the requirement for affordable housing options for its residents. Expanding the Urban Service Boundary (USB) is a rational step towards accommodating Lexington’s burgeoning population. However, the Council’s mishandling of the expansion process has turned what could have been a triumphant stride into an embarrassing self-own.

The intent behind expanding the USB was grounded in reality; the city’s population is expanding, and Lexington needs to accommodate its residents. Yet, instead of acting as the custodian of civic interests, the Council displayed a staggering lack of due diligence. Ignoring the mandated procedures as prescribed by Kentucky’s statutes, the Council raced forward with the USB expansion without the necessary public hearings and plans. Such behavior is not only legally questionable but also a disservice to the very people the Council is entrusted to serve.

In this muddled affair, the Fayette Alliance emerged with a stinging legal memo that laid bare the Council’s transgressions. While the Alliance’s aggressive tone may be contested, it cannot be denied that their intervention reveals the depth of procedural inadequacy on the part of the Council.

It is not just the expansion process that raises eyebrows; the Council’s Fiscal Year 2024 budgetary allocation for the Affordable Housing Fund is a source of consternation. A meager $2 million has been earmarked in the budget for affordable housing. This amount pales in comparison to the $10 million advocated by BUILD, a community organization actively pushing for a tangible change in Lexington’s housing landscape. The disparity between the Council’s allocation and BUILD’s sensible recommendation is glaring.

The Council’s actions, or lack thereof, raise questions regarding their commitment to genuinely addressing Lexington’s housing issues. Inadequate budget allocation for affordable housing coupled with a botched attempt at expanding the USB smacks of either incompetence or a lack of sincere resolve.

Lexington deserves better. Its Council should be a paragon of efficient and thoughtful governance. The city’s housing issues demand an astute and capable set of hands. The Council must not only rectify its embarrassing fumble but must also seriously reevaluate its commitment to affordable housing. The citizens of Lexington need a Council that understands the nuances of governance and executes its duties with an eye firmly on the well-being of its residents. Anything less is a disservice to Lexington and its future.

Photo: Councilman Preston Worley speaks in favor of expanding the USB at the June 1 Committee of the Whole meeting. (LexTV screenshot)