Politics

The leader of the Louisville Metro Council’s majority caucus says he won’t support providing millions in incentives for a high profile residential development if the developer doesn’t include affordable housing.

Councilman Bill Hollander, a Democrat from District 9, said he won’t back a proposal to approve tax increment financing districts for residential developments at the former sites of Phoenix Hill Tavern and Mercy Academy unless the developer commits to developing a portion of the near 450 units planned for the two sites as affordable.

Hollander is suggesting about 10 percent of the planned units be priced so families earning 80 percent of the area median income can afford monthly rent.

At 80 percent area median income, a family of four would bring in just more than $53,000 annually, Hollander said.

“We’re talking about making a very small piece of (the project) workforce housing,” he said.

The proposed tax increment financing district agreements between Louisville Metro government and Ohio-based Louisville Baxter Apartments, LLC detail up to nearly $8 million in city tax funds would return to the developer to help subsidize the cost of development.

A council committee will begin discussing the proposed agreement at a meeting Tuesday evening. It would need full council approval.

The two separate projects at the former Phoenix Hill Tavern site and Mercy Academy site near the intersection of East Broadway and Baxter Avenue drew attention earlier this year after the developer sought more than $10 million in incentives, including nearly $4 million from Jefferson County Public Schools, to help fund the projects that, together, are projected to cost about $76 million.

A representative for the developing company could not be reached for comment.

A representative from Louisville Metro government’s economic development arm, Develop Louisville, declined to comment on the proposed tax increment financing district agreement.

Councilman David Tandy’s district includes the Phoenix Hill and Mercy Academy development sites. He did not return a request for comment.

Hollander said he believes city leaders are committed to furthering the available affordable housing options.

Earlier this year, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer proposed and the Metro Council approved a $2.5 million budget allocation for the city’s affordable housing trust fund. That came in the wake of $12 million initiative aimed at financing the construction of affordable housing across the county.

Yet still, Hollander said he’s working alongside the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office to draft legislation that would require developers seeking tax increment financing incentives to include affordable housing in any residential project.

“This is taxpayer money, this is money that won’t come to pay our firemen, pay our policemen, fix our roads, instead it will go to the developer over the course of many years,” he said. “If we’re going to do that, we ought to help solve the problem we have with workforce housing.”

Steve Haag, a spokesman for the council’s Republican caucus, said some GOP council members are aligned with Hollander’s push.

But there are some concerns, he added.

“While we’d like to see our incentives going towards increasing affordable housing, we’re a little concerned about a one size fits all approach,” he said.

He said inundating a single area with affordable housing could counter efforts to enhance neighborhoods.

The council’s five member bipartisan Labor and Economic Development Committee will begin discussing the proposed tax increment financing agreement Tuesday at 4 p.m.

If the agreement passes through the committee, it will go to the full council for approval at their regular meeting next Thursday.

Jacob Ryan is the Metro Affairs reporter for WFPL.