Underutilization of Housing Vouchers Sparks Concern in Lexington

Lexington, KY – October 11, 2023 — In the face of surging rent prices and limited housing options, Lexington’s Urban County Council is grappling with the underutilization of housing vouchers designed to assist those in need. Advocates and city officials are working together to address the issue by implementing a proposed ordinance aimed at banning discrimination based on the source of income, all while seeking better incentives to encourage landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

At a recent meeting of the Social Services and Public Safety committee on Tuesday, housing advocates presented their concerns to the Urban County Council. It was revealed that some residents in Lexington have held housing vouchers for over six months without being able to find housing, exacerbating the city’s growing homeless population.

Charlie Lanter, the Commissioner of Housing Advocacy and Community Development, expressed strong concern regarding the immediacy of the matter, emphasizing, “We currently have individuals residing on the streets or in homeless shelters with available vouchers.”

Lanter also shared troubling statistics. In the past six months, 215 housing vouchers were issued, but a significant 18 percent of them were returned unused. Moreover, the average wait time for voucher recipients to secure housing exceeds 100 days, causing tremendous strain on those in need.

The most concerning issue for city council members is the alarmingly low participation rate of landlords willing to accept Section 8 housing vouchers. Chuck Ellinger II, Lexington’s Council At-Large, expressed his concern, saying, “When I hear the stat about 70% no longer accepting the vouchers, I want to know why that is. How can the program be such that we might not force it on landlords but make them want to take it because they want to use the program?”

In response to the underutilization of vouchers, Austin Simms, the executive director of the LFUCG Housing Authority, has proposed offering better incentives to landlords. He suggested, “That we give landlords an additional $1,000, $1,500 dollars to try the program, to dispel all of the rumors, to give them an additional security deposit.”

The proposed ordinance, which aims to ban discrimination based on the source of income, is seen as a crucial step to combat this issue and promote housing voucher acceptance. By addressing the concerns of landlords and offering financial incentives, city officials and housing advocates hope to alleviate the housing crisis faced by voucher recipients in Lexington.

As discussions continue, the community awaits further developments, hoping for solutions that will enable those with housing vouchers to secure safe and stable housing in a challenging housing market.

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