NewsLEX 18 In-Depth


Lexington is working on the affordable housing problem, but what about people looking now?

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Posted at 7:40 PM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 19:40:49-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Affordable housing is something the city of Lexington has been working to improve for years, but some residents looking for affordable places now say there are few options and little help.

Time is running out for Lexington resident Davita Gatewood to find a place to call home. After living in her current place on Lexington's eastside for five years, the owner decided to remodel and sell. Davita was notified in December and now has thirty days before she and her kids must be out.

"Right now, in this community, affordable housing for single parents is few and far between, especially when a lot of these resources that should be helping after COVID are not helpful anymore," said Gatewood. "I've pounded the pavement. I've worked with different organizations to find things, and a lot of these landlords are jacking up the prices because people will pay."

She says she would have tried to buy the home if she'd been given the opportunity.

"It makes me feel horrible. But it's not just me who's going through that. It's a lot of people that look like me who are in this situation," said Gatewood.

It's a situation with a deadline. Gatewood says finding a home that's affordable with enough space for a family in a market with sky rocking prices, is almost impossible.

"The housing is not affordable," said Gatewood.

Just to look at how housing affordability has changed in Gatewood's neighborhood over the years, LEX 18 did some research on Zillow. One house just down the block sold for $58,000 nine years ago. Last March, it sold for nearly four times as much at $212,000. Its property value is now listed even higher. Many attribute gentrification in addition to the seller's market as the reason behind the rising cost.

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

However, Gail Swanson, with community organization BUILD, says those already built units are full and waitlisted.

"Davita is not the only person who is experiencing what she's experiencing right now. I think this just reflects how broken that system was in the past," said Swanson.

BUILD is an interfaith non-profit working to improve many issues in the community. They've been researching with city officials to learn more about the problem and are currently working with the city to add to the financial resources that the city's affordable housing division has. The organization sees it as a vital tool to improve the overall health of the city.

"It's a crisis that has been a crisis for a long time that really needs to be addressed today, as well as for the future," said Swanson.

Gatewood says she tried to contact several organizations suggested by city officials like Community Action Council, Urban Impact, and the city's Office of Homelessness. She says tracking down a place with rentals available that are also affordable has been a nightmare.

"My question is, what are renters like us supposed to do," said Gatewood.

Charlie Lanter, the city's Commissioner for Housing Advocacy and Community Development says the mayor's office is aware of the issue and the fact that there's no one place you can go to get a picture of what's out there.

"There should be a place you can go that centrally updates that. Right now, that doesn't exist. It exists in pieces, but it doesn't exist," said Lanter.

It's why his office is working on a list of affordable housing in the city that will be constantly updated and is hiring a housing advocate. The housing advocate would work on issues like Davita's personally. Lanter took over his position in February and says it's high on his list of priorities to tackle.

"We understand that this is a big problem. We understand it, we recognize it, and we're doing everything as a city that we can think of to address it and to try and help make citizens' lives easier in the short term and in the long term. We understand the short-term pain, and we're doing what we can to address it now. While we build for the future," said Lanter.

In the meantime, for those who need help now, Lanter says renters should call the office of Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, which does have a list of some non-waitlisted affordable housing in the city.

Lanter says the work will take time, but it is happening.

However, time is something Gatewood and others in her situation don't have.

"You are kind of at the mercy of people who are not thinking about people. They're thinking about money. They're not thinking about the families that are in these homes," said Gatewood.

Housing experts say poor credit, housing vouchers, disabilities, children, and dogs are also all factors that make the search even more difficult.

If you need immediate assistance, contact 2-1-1 or 3-1-1.