Community Metro Louisville

The latest Metro Government survey of residents across Jefferson County shows growing gaps in meeting their basic needs. 

More than 1,550 people responded to this year’s survey — that’s nearly twice as many participants as in 2021. The assessment collected residents’ demographics, incomes and education levels. It also asked them about the extent to which they’re able to access fundamental resources imperative to their well-being. 

Louisville Metro’s Office of Resilience and Community Services uses that data to shape budgets, policies and federal funding applications. Sam Clausi, who oversees that process,  presented this year’s findings to the Jefferson County Community Action Board last week. 

She said respondents’ overall priority is housing.

“Just under 43% of renters in Jefferson County are cost-burdened, which means that they spend more than 30% of their income on rent,” Clausi said. “Nearly 21% of renters use at least 50% of their income on rent, which means that they’re severely cost-burdened. And we know that lack of affordable housing plays a role in this.”

Louisville severely lacks housing affordable enough for residents with the lowest incomes. To fill the gap, the city needs more than 31,000 units, which would cost more than an estimated $3.5 billion to develop. 

After housing, survey responses showed residents said their top needs include supportive services and employment. But the secondary priorities are different for low-income residents who earn $15,000 or less per year. 

“Housing is still the priority. But employment came in second and income and asset-building came in third,” Clausi said, adding that access to financial counseling has been a trending concern for lower-income residents. 

Clausi said the city should prioritize investing in eviction prevention, utility assistance, and programs to help residents achieve financial stability. 

“We should also focus our resources on [living-wage] employment…as well as education while providing wraparound services and removing financial barriers to things like child care, transportation,” Clausi said. 

In the past, the city has developed goals in response to these surveys that include:

  • Creating a division to analyze barriers, especially when it comes to accessing rental assistance, eviction prevention and utility help
  • Reducing the rate of residents experiencing homelessness to a level below that of peer cities
  • Helping more people transition into permanent housing

Tamika Laird, director of the Office of Resilience and Community Services, said the pandemic caused the city to shift its focus to crisis response — and focus on eviction prevention, rental and utility assistance. She said officials will dial those efforts back this year due to a lack of funding. Instead, they will try to tackle the affordable housing crisis. 

“Our overall approach is to really focus on the actual recovery and then also looking at that as far as more education and engagement in our community around all of these efforts,” Laird said. 

As of this month, the city is no longer accepting applications for rental assistance. In March, Gov. Andy Beshear allocated millions of federal relief dollars from the state’s reserve to Louisville. But the city used that money for pending requests for assistance.  

The city is working on an updated strategic plan with goals to address residents’ evolving needs. A spokesperson for RCS said it’s slated for release sometime this week.

Yasmine Jumaa is WFPL’s race and equity reporter.