Can energy efficiency help with gentrification in Lexington?

Posted at 6:41 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 18:41:08-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The city of Lexington is considering spending millions to address gentrification in the city through energy efficiency and weatherization initiatives.

The project was brought to the table by Vice Mayor Steve Kay on Tuesday and preliminarily backed by the council.

The project was added to their list of potential projects to approve with federal COVID relief dollars.

Kay wants to use $5.6 million to help low-income homeowners afford to stay in their homes with rising property taxes by modifying 200 homes to reduce energy consumption.

"The intent is to mitigate the impact of gentrification which is right now in certain neighborhoods raising the present tax cost and the anticipated tax cost for people who've been living in neighborhoods for quite a while," said Kay.

Homeowners in neighborhoods considered low-income would get grants up to $25,000 to cover costs

"Basically, their energy bill, their electric bill would be minimized if not eliminated. In certain points they would be through net metering, selling energy back onto the grid," said Kay.

He estimates homeowners will save $200-400 on energy bills a month. It's important to note, that's if their bills are that high to begin with.

The Lexington Fair Housing Council says the east end is where they see the brunt of their calls from people looking for help to stay in their homes.

"A lot of people are selling their homes in these gentrified areas because maybe they're lacking resources to help repair their homes. Maybe code enforcement has been out there a few times," said Program Coordinator Shantee Lamarr.

But Lamarr says what communities really need to help gentrification is more affordable housing throughout the city, not just in low-income neighborhoods.

"We think that the spending should also be intentional. Building low-income housing, just in low-income areas just sort of solidifies that level of poverty. Affordable housing should be distributed evenly across the city. That would help with integration and all manner of things but also keeps people from being displaced," said Lamarr.

The Fayette Urban County Government has already added projects totaling around $70 million to their list out of the roughly $83 million they have to spend.

They range from funding for a community dental program with Bluegrass Technical College to money for police and fire.

There is still a lot of work to be done before the projects become a reality. The council is working through their long list of projects to approve, and they hope to do that before Christmas break.