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Housing issues continue for community members looking to use vouchers

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-23 09:42:42-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The KY tenants hosted a town hall on Friday at the Lyric Theatre to address the issue of affordable housing in Lexington.

Lexington woman Davita Gatewood's fight to secure housing for her and her six kids started months ago.

Gatewood got a notice to vacate her rented home in January. She fought successfully to get an extension after extension on her lease from her landlord.

"It's like every day diligently looking for affordable safe housing, and I emphasize safe because a lot of times when you're in the situation people think you should just take anything," said Gatewood.

However, in September, her family will have to move out of their rented home for good. With the state of affordable housing in the city, Gatewood says it's an uphill battle.

She relies on the housing choice voucher Section 8. Without it, she can't afford housing.

"Just because you have a housing voucher does not ensure you're going to find housing, and a lot of landlords are not taking housing vouchers right now," said Gatewood.

It's a fight that she's vowed not to quit, taking the issue all the way to the Biden administration in Washington D.C.

She traveled with KY Tenants and Homes Guarantee, a project created by a national grassroots network to demand federal protections for tenants like her.

Several people have told LEX 18 they're now homeless or on the very edge of homelessness after not being able to use their voucher before it expires or their lease ends.

Gatewood says their plea to the white house was for them to help change that. Their request included: a tenant's rights task force, a federal office of tenant protections, rent control for properties receiving federal subsidies, a national right to lease renewal, and an opportunity for tenants to purchase rented homes that hit the public market.

Currently, 30 to 40 million people currently at risk of eviction because of the COVID-19 housing crisis, according to Aspen Institute.

The exact number in Lexington changes daily. The demand for affordable housing is high across Kentucky, but the supply of available units is desperately low.

Affordable Housing Manager Rick McQuady says the city is working on using $12 million they have to try to house more people.

"There's a lot of new construction out there, and we're in the process of trying to ensure that there's even more opportunities for lower-income households to find quality affordable housing in Lexington," said McQuady.

He added that 846 affordable housing units are under construction, while 155 are under rehabilitation.

According to city data, Lexington is losing around 400 affordable housing units every year. The city has built nearly 3,000 units since the Office of Affordable Housing was created in 2014 and is in the process of building 1,000 more for the future.

McQuady says he does believe the city is doing all it can.

"It's very complex, there is no doubt about that. There's a lot of issues that go into this and we're just doing the best we can with the resources we have available to serve as many households as possible," he said.

Still, residents looking for affordable housing now say there are few options and little help. That's why KY Tenants organized a town hall to give tenants a platform to discuss and brainstorm solutions.

"In Lexington, we don't have enough rights for tenants, and we don't have enough affordable housing. And it's both of those at the same time. We can build our way out of the housing crisis, and less we get more rights for tenants," said organizer Beau Revlett.

Revlett believes there is more the city can do and plans to present policy ideas at the town hall.

"Local government has the authority to spend more money on affordable housing, they have more the authority to implement more tenant protections, and that means that they have the responsibility," said Revlett.