Urban County Council members narrowly blocked another effort by Councilman Steve Kay Tuesday to establish an ongoing funding source for Lexington's new plan to promote affordable housing and combat homelessness.
During Tuesday's work session, Kay moved to put a resolution on the council's April 24 meeting agenda that would earmark 15 percent of income from Lexington's insurance fee to go to the housing program each year, starting in fiscal 2016.
Kay said the proposal would generate about $3.9 million every year to support new efforts to combat homelessness by making affordable housing more widely available in Lexington.
However, his motion failed on an 8-7 vote, with Vice Mayor Linda Gorton and council members Julian Beard, Bill Farmer, Kevin Stinnett, Jennifer Scutchfield, George Myers, Jennifer Mossotti and Ed Lane opposing it.
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In addition to Kay, Chuck Ellinger, Chris Ford, Shevawn Akers, Diane Lawless, Harry Clarke and Peggy Henson voted in favor of the motion.
It was the second time Kay has been rebuffed in an effort to establish a funding stream for affordable housing and homelessness prevention. He tried in February to set aside part of the tax on insurance premiums for that purpose, but the council tabled his effort.
The work session vote came shortly after members of the council's Planning and Public Works Committee endorsed a general outline for the city's affordable housing and homeless prevention effort.
Planning Commissioner Derek Paulsen, who presented the proposal to the committee, called it "the bones" of a plan, which would be fleshed out in coming weeks.
But Paulsen said he intends to have one key part of the plan ready to start working soon: a stakeholder group to help officials decide what kind of programs are needed to make affordable housing more available for Lexington's poorest citizens.
Paulsen told the committee that he's working to have the complete affordable housing-homelessness plan ready for council members to study before they go on their July break.
As outlined by Paulsen, the plan would provide separate offices of Affordable Housing and Homelessnes Intervention and Prevention. But both would work closely together, he said.
Former Community Action Council employee Charlie Lanter already has been named to head the homelessness program. Paulsen said the city hopes to start advertising for an affordable housing coordinator by July.
The council already has voted to earmark $3.5 million from a current-year surplus for homelessness and affordable housing.
Paulsen said Tuesday that $3 million of that total would go for affordable housing, with the remaining $500,000 directed to the homelessness side. The money would be used to "leverage" additional funds, he said.
Gorton moved that the planning committee should support the plan as outlined by Paulsen, and direct him to proceed.
"I like this very much ... it's much better than the framework we had before," she said.
Gorton's motion passed on a voice vote with no opposition.
City leaders have debated for years how best to attack the related problems of homelessness and lack of affordable housing.
During Tuesday's work session, Kay cited that debate in urging fellow council members to back his motion to provide a funding stream for affordable housing.
"Six years have passed while this debate has been debated," he said. "We know we have an overwhelming need ... I see no reason to delay."
Gorton, however, quickly opposed Kay's idea, arguing that it would be risky to move forward without a firm plan.
She noted that the planning committee had just seen "the beginnings" of a plan, adding, "I'm happy with that."
"I, along with most of my colleagues, recognize there is a problem we need to fix with affordable housing," Gorton said. "It's important for me to know where your tax dollars are going and how they're going to be used. We need to move forward when we're sure of what we're doing with this money."
Others, like Kevin Stinnett, agreed.
"This leaves too many doors open in the future that a council could come in and change it," Stinnett said. "There has to be a better way."