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Housing group resurges to help Lexington distribute $18 million in rental assistance

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 19:37:03-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — By the end of June, an untold amount of people will get a seven-day notice and be forced out of their homes, but a group in Lexington is resurging to try to help.

The CDC's eviction moratorium ends at the end of June. Meanwhile, the city of Lexington still has about $18 million dollars for rental assistance to distribute.

"It's kind of obvious that if you have 20 million, and only 2 million has been spent over this period that the moratorium has been in place, you need some help," said Rev. Michael Wilson.

Willson says there are several issues at play, but the most important is how the information is shared with the people who need it.

"How to access the program. I've even had heard some landlords say that they are having problems, jumping through the hoops to get an opportunity for their tenants to get into the program," said Wilson.

Fearing a looming crisis, Wilson and a group of like-minded people got together to do something about it.

"There are people that basically, thank God, have the same mindset that it's a serious situation and something needs to be done," said Wilson.

Ultimately, they decided to revive the Central Kentucky Homelessness and Housing Initiative, which has been inactive for years.

"They have to know about it and, unfortunately, the information that's been there, the portal, so to speak, as to how they should do what they should do, has just been centered around the city's website and address and etc. A lot of people that, can be evicted don't have internet. They barely have a roof over their head," said Wilson.

He says the city welcomes the help as a partnership. The Central Kentucky Homelessness and Housing Initiative plan to use the space at the Mother Theresa Center in Lexington to set up a home base to connect struggling people to the resources that can help them.

"They're gonna change it into office space, have volunteers and persons in here that are going to start helping the city and implementing some things too, to assure that we're on the front line as well," said Wilson. "You almost do have to do hand-holding to bring them to a knowledge. Then, move them through the hoops, keep them motivated."

In addition to the eviction moratorium expiring at the end of June, there's also the increasing price of rent and the low availability of housing in the area.

"What we've seen of recent past is that the rental market is mimicking the housing market. We definitely have a housing supply and demand issue that we're dealing with not only in Fayette County but surrounding counties within our LBAR regions, and housing is an issue, whether you're looking to buy or looking to rent," said Kristy Gooch, President of the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of REALTORS.

Looking at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's fair market rent estimates, nationwide rent is up an average of 3.9%.

"Anytime you're dealing with supply and demand, the prices increase, and it is an investment. So an investor is looking for return on their investment. So, just like you know the wood prices, if you're building a deck your deck is super expensive right now, rental prices are also migrating up as well," said Gooch.

Wilson says that only underscores the importance of spending the available $18 million dollars in rental assistance as soon as possible.

"The ultimate goal would be to look at some numbers and say Oh, this is what we did with to $2.2 million, but look at look at what we've done now and how many people have been saved, and have not had to go through the eviction process," said Wilson.

They are asking community members to help spread the word. Fayette County residents looking for assistance should contact Covid19RenterHelp.org.