Thu February 14, 2013
Insurance Tax for Affordable Housing Loses Ground as Advocates Urge Support
Dozens of residents and community activists filled City Hall on Thursday to urge the Louisville Metro Council to boost funding for affordable housing, but an ordinance seeking to pay for the initiative is losing support.
Several people spoke in favor of legislation that seeks to put nearly $10 million into the fund by increasing the city's tax on insurance premiums by one percentage point.
Affordable housing advocates who testified before the council spoke of skyrocketing rent and mortgage costs, the high number of homeless public school children and the need for new units.
"We can’t let school kids continue to be homeless, and let this problem go unsolved. So there are people who are in agreement that we need to do something and figure out how to fund the trust fund, and work together to figure out how to do that," Rachel Hurst, executive director of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund told WFPL.
But the prospects are grim now that a majority on the council have said they do not support the proposal.
Council President Jim King, D-10, and Councilman David Yates, D-24, have both said they will not vote for the ordinance. And after two of the original seven co-sponsors withdrew their support this week, another supporter—Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26—announced he is also backing off the bill.
Those five Democrats joining all nine Republicans who have voiced opposition to the ordinance, and just four original co-sponsors remain.
Opponents of the tax hike argue it will raise the overall amount paid on premiums by 20 percent. Supporters say that increase will only be about $1.25 a month for average residents.
Others say the concern centers around the inability to guarantee any new revenue would directly go to affordable housing.
"I’m still listening to what everybody is saying but I have to tell you I’m extremely concerned about where that money goes," says Democratic Caucus Chair David James, adding he and others are still undecided. "I really don’t feel the general fund is the way to do that, by putting a tax into the general fund hoping that is all goes to a particular cause."
Still the trust fund’s members and supporters say they will continue to lobby the council in the coming weeks as the chief sponsors concede it has little chance of passage in its current form.
"Since 2008 the housing crisis of course has continued to degrade our city. It’s created thousands of additional vacant and abandoned properties," Affordable Housing Trust Fund treasurer John Rippy told the council. "As you know the council has a committee on vacant and abandoned properties, and a quote from that committee just last month said: nothing we recommend would go very far without sufficient funding and the general fund would never accommodate the needs."