As a supplement to our report on Housing Justice, the GLP has invited experts working with housing in Louisville to share their thoughts. This is one of those posts.
By any yardstick, 2020 has been a brutal year for Louisville. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought devastating illness and death to so many of our neighbors. The tragic killing of Breonna Taylor brought systemic social injustices into sharp focus. And now, thanks to COVID’s economic fallout, many people are struggling to stay in their homes. We’re living in tough times.
But some have it much worse than others. The coronavirus is far more devastating in Louisville’s West End, with infection rates five times higher than in other areas of Louisville. Just as we’re seeing around the country, COVID is disproportionately impacting Black people in our community.
Even before COVID, many people in Louisville struggled to find adequate shelter. Louisville ranks 15th among 17 peer cities in poverty, with 14.5% of residents living in multidimensional poverty, a measurement of income, unemployment, lack of health insurance and lack of a high school degree. There are 150,000 people in Louisville burdened with unaffordable housing.
One organization working to reverse those trends is LHOME, Louisville’s intentional, inclusive lender. LHOME is a nonprofit financial institution that provides affordable loan products and financial coaching services to low-income small business owners, renters and homeowners in Louisville.
As a U.S. Treasury-certified community development financial institution (CDFI), we offer low-interest consumer and business loans, primarily to people in 15 ZIP codes in West and South Louisville that have historically been shut out of credit markets by redlining and discrimination.
We understand that access to capital is part of the American dream for all of us. By bringing affordable credit to these neighborhoods, we’re not just providing short-term housing options. We’re giving people an opportunity to start to build intergenerational wealth.
At LHOME, we offer a variety of loan products that help people stay in their homes, including our Property Tax Assistance Loan; Home Repair and Energy Efficiency Loan; and a “Job Up!” Loan, designed to help immigrants and refugees become recertified to practice in their professional fields.
We also offer small business loans that help business owners stay afloat in this treacherous year. One small business loan, our Working Capital Loan, is designed to help contractors build affordable housing and commercial properties.
We also offer financial coaching to help borrowers better understand how the financial system works. We teach people how to save for emergencies, pay down debt, invest in a side hustle, and grow their small businesses. We also teach people the advantages of home ownership, which has myriad economic advantages over renting and is often equally affordable.
Sometimes small loans can make all the difference when hard times come calling. Consider Gazerrya Martin, owner of Café Shauntee, a meal prep and catering business. Ms. Martin started her company just before COVID hit. When the pandemic began to make life hard for her elderly neighbors and those with children, she began providing them with free meals. A $500 loan from LHOME helped her keep the lights on and keep her generosity going.
Another example is Edwindra Johnson. She secured funding for rehabilitation work on her property on South 43rd street. The project helped her make improvements to her home but also demonstrated for her and her neighbors that it’s possible in Louisville to gain access to capital to make a home renovation.
Another borrower, Jennifer Elliott, became a first-time homeowner this year, thanks to a collaboration between LHOME, the Park Community Credit Union and the Portland Save-A-Lot, where Jennifer works. Thanks to her work ethic and tenacity, Jennifer now owns a comfy, refurbished home in Portland, where her mortgage payment is significantly less than she used to pay for rent. Please see the video on our home page to learn more about Jennifer’s story.
In addition to intentional, inclusive lending and financial coaching, LHOME also offers a Financial Navigator program in collaboration with Louisville Metro. The program offers free advice to anyone in the Jefferson county area with questions or concerns about their personal finances, debts, or other available resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The best way to reach a Financial Navigator is by filling out a short interest form. Those who do will receive a call back within 48 hours.
Finally, LHOME also offers a way for supporters to help us in our mission to bring credit to underserved members of our community, and it’s perhaps unique in Louisville. Because we’re a nonprofit, non-depository lender, investors can invest in our life-changing and community-changing products. We pay our investors interest on the money they invest and then loan those funds at a fair rate to people who need money. Everybody wins.