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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Community Affairs, Housing, Health and Education Committee held a special discussion Wednesday addressing concerns around the city’s public housing facilities.

Lisa Osanka, executive director of the Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA) was invited to the committee meeting to break down the reasons behind the maintenance concerns with some public housing units.

“We do want to have safe, decent, affordable housing. And sometimes, we need to do a better job,” Osanka said. 

District 3 Councilwoman Keisha Dorsey, who is not a member of the committee but attended the meeting, has seen some of the conditions herself.

“I’m really concerned about how folks at the most vulnerable level of our community are living, the conditions they’re living in,” Dorsey said. “Some of the properties I went in, not so bad … other ones, a little bit more astounding.”

Dorsey called some of the buildings “dilapidated beyond which anyone should live in.” 

Osanka said a lack of in-person inspections during part of the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to fall behind.

“We did not do in-person inspections of those units during the heat of the crisis, so we are now getting caught up in trying to get eyes and ears in all of those units and have a plan in place to get that done,” Osanka said. 

But funding is a problem, too.

Osanka said LMHA gets about $130 millions in federal funding each year, a bulk of which supports the 10,000 families involved in the Section 8 program, also called Housing Choice Voucher.

It also supports the upkeep for 4,500 LMHA-owned properties.

In all, Osanka said they’re currently looking at more than $55 million worth of deferred maintenance in their five-year budget plan. She admitted, though, that it would take more money than that to get all of the buildings where LMHA would like them to be.

“We are in the business of trying to provide safe, decent, affordable housing and we would love to get the resources that we could do that 100%,” Osanka said. 

District 9 Councilman Bill Hollander pointed out LMHA gets no Metro funding, whereas other communities contribute local funds for public housing. However, he went on to say he doesn’t necessarily believe Louisville has the funding to do that, saying more federal funding would probably be needed to make the changes they’d like to see.

Some believe the city’s American Rescue Plan funding could provide some one-time funding to fill that gap. 

There was also discussion over how to balance investing in new affordable housing while also bringing current public housing up to code. It’s just the start of the conversation, but Dorsey hopes they can create long-term solutions.

“This isn’t about pointing fingers or it’s someone’s fault,” she said. “I think this is more about how can we partner and move together. I think everyone wants to build a better Louisville. The question is how do we get there. It’s going to be a marathon, but I do think starting it is the most important thing, creating that momentum. And that’s what we did today.”

She added that anyone currently living in LMHA housing who may be experiencing unhealthy or unsafe conditions should call 311 to report the issue. 

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