Anti-Displacement Ordinance Introduced in Louisville by Tenant Advocates

Tenant leaders and advocates in Louisville, Kentucky, introduced the “Anti-Displacement Fair Housing Ordinance,” also known as the “Historically Black Neighborhoods Ordinance” (HBNO), in August 2023. The first of its kind to be introduced in a southern state, the ordinance aims to address the rampant displacement and gentrification affecting Black communities in low-income neighborhoods in the Louisville metropolitan area.

In recent years, developers have used public resources to create housing that is unaffordable to many residents, leading to higher rents and increased cost burdens for existing residents and forcing many into housing insecurity and homelessness. The new ordinance would require that any development projects in designated historically Black neighborhoods and communities in the city participate in and pass an assessment proving they will not cause the direct or indirect displacement of existing residents. If a development does not pass the assessment, then it is prevented from accessing financial incentives or being built on publicly owned land. The legislation would also prioritize access for current residents and small business owners in areas that are vulnerable to displacement, and for city programs including an existing down-payment assistance program, a home repair program, and a small business assistance program.

The Louisville Tenants Union is a multi-racial and multi-generational tenant union that focuses on building tenant power, organizing campaigns, and advocating for policy changes that empower and prioritize tenants and housing rights. The Louisville Tenants Union includes the Historically Black Neighborhood Assembly (HBN), which was founded in 2021 by Jessica Bellamy of the Smoketown Neighborhood Association and became a part of the LTU in 2022.

In February 2023, the organization launched the public facing campaign for the HBNO. After months of advocacy, signature collection, and support gathering among community members and Louisville Metro Council members, the organization was able to present the legislation to the Louisville Metro Council in August. While a final committee vote on the bill is pending, the community has shown tremendous support for the legislation. Not only have 1,500 individuals signed a petition in support of the ordinance, but 50 allied organizations have voiced support, and several Metro councilmembers have co-sponsored the bill. NLIHC state partner Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky expressed support for the ordinance in a letter to the Metro council, explaining that “[d]ue to longstanding patterns of structural racism in the housing market, the residents of West Louisville, which are Historically Black Neighborhoods, need to be protected explicitly.”

“At its heart, [the ordinance] prevents the Louisville metro government from giving away public resources such as money, land, and staff support to development projects that would increase the cost of living in historically Black neighborhoods,” said Bellamy.

Learn more about the Anti-Displacement Ordinance here.

Learn more about the Louisville Tenants Union here.