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'Nowhere to turn to': Northern Kentucky loses nearly 600 affordable homes in 10 months

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Posted at 7:17 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 19:17:45-04

NEWPORT, Ky. — Leaders in Newport are searching for resources to help people on the verge of losing homes with no affordable option within reach.

New landlords planning to renovate Victoria Square apartments want tenants to vacate. 100 of the residents must move by Sept. 30. The rest have until Jan. 30.

"It's empty," resident Catherine Chandler said. "That's how it feels."

Chandler lives with her mom and feels pressure. They are on a month-to-month lease and have 70 days to find a new place. They can afford no more than $670 a month in rent. Also, they need to find it before Chandler goes back to college next month. A grant that helps pay for her education requires Chandler to live in Campbell County, she said. So far, they see nothing close.

"It feels like you just have nowhere to go, nowhere to turn to," she said.

Between Victoria Square and City Heights closing in Covington, Northern Kentucky lost 598 affordable homes in the last 10 months.

"It's a perfect storm," said Talia Frye, vice president at Brighton Center. "We want progress in our communities but progress has to include everyone in a community."

RELATED | Hundreds of tenants suddenly need new homes after new landlord announces plans to renovate Newport apartments

Brighton Center operates 300 affordable housing units. All of them are occupied with wait lists. The Center soon plans to open a new facility for college-age adults on the campus of Northern Kentucky University too.

While Victoria Square landlords told tenants all lease terms will be honored and gave each at least 70 days to find something else, Frye sees families forced to spend 70% of their income to secure new homes.

In some cases, the only affordable alternative is in Falmouth or Crittenden, Frye said. North of the Ohio River, where Redfin real estate brokers' research found the fastest rising rents in any American metro year over year, housing advocates see struggles too.

In 2017, LISC Cincinnati and partners found a 40,000 affordable housing unit shortage in Hamilton County. The group is currently updating its statistics but expects to see little improvement, LISC deputy director Kristen Baker said. More current research showed 49,000 people spend more than half their income on housing. 62% of those are renters.

Even families scoring Section 8 vouchers, which guarantee landlords get paid, struggle to find homes in 90 days. So with less time, fewer options in Newport and some people shopping without such guarantees Frye's staff hopes to find landlords willing to take less money from clients in need.

"There is not a magic wand," Frye said. "Developers need to be able to pay on that loan 100%. There is a social responsibility that all of us have as businesses and leaders to think about affordable housing as part of how we are doing business."

Some residents, like James Ford, a 71-year-old veteran, are optimistic.

"When you tell somebody it's time to go, this is the timeframe that you have, you (have) to do it," he said.

Chandler, though, is desperate. She and her mom search social media leads and hope things work out.

The Northern Kentucky Branch of the NAACP plans to host a community meeting with Victoria Square residents and various agencies offering support Wednesday, July 27 at 6 p.m. inside Second Baptist Church in Newport.

Newport Independent Schools, which has 45 students affected, released a statement of support Thursday.

"We are deeply troubled by the upheaval and stress our families are facing with school starting in less than a month," said Jennifer Steward, director of pupil personnel and student services for NIS. "Newport Independent Schools is working with local community organizations to assist students and families impacted."

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