Report: Vacant Housing Unequally Plagues West End

The 2012 State of Metropolitan Housing Report has been released, showing many issues—like subsidized housing in the West End—are still persistent in Louisville.

“We no longer can hide behind the skirts of an economic crisis. We see long term trends,” said Cathy Hinko, director Metropolitan Housing Coalition, which authored the report.

The report is commissioned each year through private and public funds and focuses on housing issues affecting the city and county. Among the data this year, MHC highlights the city’s vacant property problem and recommends Metro Government work with various agencies and groups to develop a better tracking and identifying system.

(Read the report here.)

Vacant properties have consistently speckled areas of Jefferson County for years, but unequally plague the West End, which council districts also contain most of the city’s subsidized housing.

Over the past two years millions of dollars have been invested in addressing vacant properties, but the city is still in the early phases of addressing the problem in a comprehensive way, the report says.

Aside from hosting vacant and abandoned property summits in 2011 and 2012, Louisville Metro’s Department of Codes and Regulations has begun developing a system called VAPStat that will act as a central database for vacant and abandoned properties.

In its report, MHC recommends it include “vacant and abandoned properties identified by various local entities, including the Louisville Metro Department of Codes and Regulations, Louisville Metro Office of Economic Development and Innovation, and the Louisville Water Company, as well as organizations such as NC3 and neighborhood groups,” each of which has separate definitions of vacant property.

“What we recommend is that we actually establish a data base that pulls from a variety of data sources,” said report author John Vick from the University of Louisville’s Urban Policy and Planning Research.

Network Center for Community Change (NC3) recently mapped the Smoketown neighborhood and found over 400 “vacant” properties, in contrast to 70 provided by city data, NC3 officials said.

Also, for the first time, MHC considered the number of homeless students in all 13 counties included in Louisville’s Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

In Jefferson County Public Schools, the homeless student population increased 21 percent from 10,161 to 12,389, according to the district’s 2011-2012 data. This could be in part due to a change in the way the district measures homeless students, which the report points out is a “more accurate measure.”

But JCPS still soars at 13.2 percent in its homeless student population when compared to all MSA counties. The next highest rate is Indiana’s East Washington School Cooperation with 4.7 percent (a district enrollment of 1,653).

When the other 12 counties added up their homeless student populations, “this was an additional 868 homeless students at some point during the last school year,” said report author Allison Smith.

All Kentucky counties immediately surrounding Jefferson have a less than 3 percent homeless student population rate.

Also in the report: just over 60 percent of Jefferson County residents are homeowners, which is the lowest rate since MHC began keeping records in 2003. There has been a 32 percent decrease in the number of foreclosures over last year.

Federal funding that helps initiatives and programs to improve housing and neighborhood development (Community Development Block Grant fund) has been unstable the past decade, according to the report.

In fiscal year 2012, Louisville Metro was allocated $9.7 million which is an 8 percent drop from the previous year.

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

Comments