Louisville Metro Councilman James Peden, R-23, is rallying against an effort to build a so-called “low-income” housing complex in his southeastern district, but Mayor Greg Fischer's office and developers say Peden is misleading residents and the area needs more affordable housing.
Frontgate Apartments is a 212-unit apartment complex proposed by LDG Development, which wants to build the rental project in the Highview neighborhood near Outer Loop. In an April 18 letter to the Kentucky Housing Corporation, the mayor supported the developer's application for state tax credits and pointed out that the project would be near a public transportation route, public and private schools and a full grocery store.
According to the mayor’s office, renters in the proposed development would have annual household earnings between $27,000 and $38,000. Over the past two weeks, however, Peden has warned constituents about a “low-income housing project” being constructed in the area. And in a letter to state housing officials, the southeast Republican argues the apartment complex could hurt the property values of $100,000 homes and that his district is struggling to maintain its middle-class status due to population shifts in the city.
In a telephone interview with WFPL, Peden says his district needs higher priced rentals to jumpstart commercial and retail development; adding the city refuses to put affordable housing in areas such as the Highlands or East End.
“We already have poor people living in Highview,” he says. “Everyone here accepts the fact that poor people need a place to live, and we have our share. My area needs less along the lines of the affordable side of things and more along the lines of the high end, then you get some economic balance.”
However, the 2011 State of Metropolitan Housing Report shows that less than two percent—222 units—of the housing in Peden’s district is subsidized. Several housing reports have shown that the heaviest concentration of public and Section 8 housing is in the areas immediately east and west of downtown, with sparse public housing elsewhere in the county.
The Fischer administration says the new complex won't house Louisville's poorest citizens, but will provide residences for middle-income earners.
“This is the type of housing that a worker at GE, a worker at Ford, a fireman or a teacher—these are the type of apartments that they can afford and that’s definitely not the lowest of the low income,” says mayoral spokesman Chris Poynter. “If we’re going to be a strong community we need a diversity of housing in every neighborhood. We need a diversity of housing in the Highlands and we need a diversity of housing in Highview. And we believe this helps achieve that.”
The mayor’s office has received at least 100 complaints from residents about the development. Fischer responded with a form letter addressing their concerns. The mayor tells constituents that the apartments are for “working people” and rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the complex will be around $700 a month.
Asked about why he described the complex as “low-income” to constituents, Peden blamed the wording of those newsletters on Republican caucus staff. But the city lawmaker says the mayor is still ignoring how the project doesn't fit in the district and other developers are more deserving of tax incentives.
“The only objection I have when it comes to the low-income portion of this is that it’s 100 percent low-income. And I’m not even going to use the word low-income, I’ll use the word income restrictive. And what that means is that if you don’t meet a certain guideline then you can’t live there,” says Peden. “So let’s say my daughter goes to college and gets a fairly decent job right out of school, but she can’t quite afford a house and wants to live close to home. She wouldn’t be able to live here.”
The Kentucky Housing Corporation is currently reviewing the Frontgate application and expect to make a decision by June.