Fayette County

As rents go up, what can Lexington do about gentrification?

Councilman James Brown on Johnson Ave. in Lexington, Ky., Friday, December 23, 2016. Brown will chair a new task force on Neighborhoods in Transition. The areas around Martin Luther King and Fourth Street, including Johnson Avenue, have seen an influx in new development.
Councilman James Brown on Johnson Ave. in Lexington, Ky., Friday, December 23, 2016. Brown will chair a new task force on Neighborhoods in Transition. The areas around Martin Luther King and Fourth Street, including Johnson Avenue, have seen an influx in new development. cbertram@herald-leader.com

People are getting priced out of rental apartments along the Jefferson Street corridor.

Apartment complexes in the Tates Creek Road corridor have been purchased, renovated and tenants forced out because they can not afford the new, higher rents.

A new task force will tackle the thorny issue of how to protect the city's lower-income residents as redevelopment and infill ramps up all over Lexington.

Lexington Vice Mayor Steve Kay said the Task Force on Neighborhoods in Transition will be chaired by Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilman James Brown and will include city officials, community members, Fayette County Property Value Administrator David O'Neill, urban planner Stan Harvey and University of Kentucky history professor Gerald Smith.

Brown's district, which includes neighborhoods north of Main Street, has seen a lot of redevelopment in recent years. But that means long-term residents — particularly renters — have been forced out. That problem will only get worse as redevelopment continues, he said.

Brown cautioned there will be no "silver bullet" to address the issue. All cities with a lot of redevelopment struggle with the issue. Brown had previously proposed considering a program that would help homeowners offset property tax increases in high-development areas, but he later learned many of the people who are being forced out of neighborhoods are renters, he said.

"As a community focused on infill, local government has a responsibility to protect vulnerable residents and promote equity in our neighborhoods as they experience growth and redevelopment," Brown said.

Kay said the task force will start meeting in July. Because of the complexity of the problem, Kay said there is no set timeline on when the task force will return with specific recommendations. The task force will identify existing resources, look at ways to protect the history of communities and develop policies and programs that support residents and neighborhoods.

"We do not want to become a community where the people who provide our basic services are unable to afford to live here," Kay said.

Kay said the issue of redevelopment is not just limited to the neighborhoods north of Main Street. The first three blocks of the Kenwick neighborhood off Main Street have seen dramatic increases in home values. The third block in Kenwick has not seen that same level of redevelopment.

In the past decade, more than a dozen older apartment complexes in Lexington have been purchased by new owners and renovated, which forced many people to leave their apartment and leave Fayette County, he said.

"We want to try to get a handle on this problem now," Kay said.

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