Richard McQuady, manager of Lexington’s affordable housing agency, is off to a good start, launching rehabilitation and new construction projects and aiding developers providing homes for the low-income, elderly and disabled.
McQuady, who has 30 years of housing experience and worked for the state, cites as progress and plans:
▪ Funding for 501 units — 483 apartments and 18 houses.
▪ Of the 501 units, 34 have been completed.
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▪ Current construction and rehabilitation of 170 units.
▪ Rehabilitation of 180 units to begin this fall.
▪ Construction of 117 new units to begin this fall.
It took years of debate, community pressure and studies to build a consensus for an affordable housing fund. In September, 2014 the council allocated $3 million for the first year, and $2 million annually after that for five years.
Leveraging that effectively will require a lot of partnerships, new ideas, oversight and community feedback.
The city’s program defines affordable housing as costing less than 30 percent of an individual’s or family’s gross income on housing costs and maintenance. Most of the houses being built and renovated for sale start at about $80,000.
Working with Kentucky Housing Inc., the city is able to make loans available at a reduced rate of interest, sometimes even buying a piece of the loan at two percent interest. The city is also working with developers to build and renovate rental units.
For example, a $403,000 grant was used to rehabilitate a floor in St. James Place on Deweese Street, which offers housing for the working homeless. The 102-unit building had not had any updates since it opened in 1995.
On York Street north of downtown, workers are currently building six one-bedroom, one-bath houses; three are already sold. The project, spearheaded by North Limestone Community Development Corp., received a $159,103 loan and a $163,096 grant from the affordable housing fund, along with other grants.
One of those homes is being built by ReContained, which welded together two shipping containers to create a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 640-square-foot home. The concrete frame is welded to the weathering steel and is insulated with spray foam
The average time to construct a new home is about five months and it takes about a year from financing the project to a closing on the affordable home.
Vice Mayor Steve Kay, who served on the Affordable Housing Task Force that helped usher in the program, is pleased with the progress and glad to have McQuady at the helm.
But Billie Mallory, an advocate for the East End community near the York Street construction, cautions that the focus should not move more toward affordable housing for young professionals and away from helping the elderly, poor and disabled.
“Of the 501 total units built and rehabbed, 73 are for elderly and disabled, 24 are for survivors of domestic violence and 78 are for homeless, some of which have a disability,” McQuady said.
Balancing the various affordable housing needs will definitely be a challenge for city officials. After such a long wait, it is encouraging to see the city focused on making it easier for folks to find a home.