Lexington builds affordable housing

Many dedicated people fought for years to create an affordable housing program in Lexington.

Their efforts were rewarded last year when the city's Office of Affordable Housing was created with an initial city contribution of $3 million and a commitment for $2 million in subsequent years.

But the true reward began to be seen recently as the program's first projects were announced. They will soon provide dozens of people in our community with a safe, affordable place to live.

The affordable housing program was established with the flexibility to allow for different types of contributions with different partners to serve the many different types of people who struggle to find decent housing at a price they can pay in our community. These two recent projects illustrate the value of this flexibility.

This week Greenhouse 17, which serves survivors of domestic violence in 17 Central Kentucky counties, announced that it will soon create 24 new housing units where survivors and their children can live for as long as two years while they rebuild their lives.

Financing for the units — 12 new cottages and 12 rehabbed apartments — is a complex array of grants, credits and loans, including a $560,000 loan from the city's affordable housing fund.

This is an important next step for Greenhouse 17 which operates an emergency shelter for women and children but has not had a consistent place for these stressed families to go when they leave the shelter. Too often, women stay with or return to abusive partners because that is the only affordable option to keep a roof over their heads, and those of their children.

Greenhouse 17 executive director Darlene Thomas said such transitional housing offers "the ability to maintain contact and give them much-needed support services that they may need to gain independence."

Too often what has been affordable housing disappears from the market either because it becomes uninhabitable or is overhauled to serve a more affluent market.

Another recent project of the affordable housing fund, announced last week, is not aimed at creating new units for people trying to transition to a different life but at maintaining and improving existing apartments for low-income seniors and disabled adults.

A $400,000 grant from the fund was announced to update the Ferrill Square Apartments, a housing complex owned by First African Baptist Church with 59 one-bedroom apartments.

The grant will pay for a new roof and gutter system, tile and carpet and improve wheelchair accessibility. It will also be used to reduce operating costs with installation of new, energy-efficient appliances, including heating and air-conditioning units and storm windows.

Lexington taxpayers should thank those who lobbied so long for this program, and take pride in their contribution to these projects that make this a better place for all of us.