Mayor promises low-income housing plan

An agreement made yesterday evening between city officials and a community action group will not help Sarah Gordon, one of more than 100 residents of the Ingleside Mobile Home Park displaced to make way for a student housing complex.

But the commitment made by Mayor Jim Newberry may help Lexington residents in the future who, like Gordon, live in lower-income housing.

More than 1,000 people, including Gordon, packed the Consolidated Baptist Church to watch as Newberry agreed to create a legal ordinance aimed at helping low-income housing owners and renters who are displaced because of redevelopment.

The deal was brokered by Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action, a 22-church organization based in Lexington. Each year, Build identifies two city issues to focus on.

“We are not here to place blame,” said the Rev. Joseph Owens, a Build leader. “We are certainly not here to gripe. We are here tonight as citizens. We are powerful, and we have done our homework.”

Last night, the group chose low-income housing and health care as its issues of interest. As part of the agreement on housing, Newberry said he would present the ordinance to Build by July 1 and to the city council by Sept. 1 of this year.

The agreement would also create an affordable housing trust fund by July 1, 2009, for Lexington families and individuals making no more than 80 percent of Lexington families’ median income, which Build cites as about $49,000.

The Rev. Richard Gaines, another Build leader, said the displacement of Ingleside residents was a major influence on the decision to spend months preparing yesterday’s agreement.

Lexington developer Neal Evans bought Ingleside Mobile Home Park, a 6.8-acre lot off Red Mile Road, for $3.3 million in January to build an apartment complex targeting students.

The development plan calls for 168 apartments with a total of 504 bedrooms and 457 parking spaces to occupy the property the mobile homes currently sit on. Construction is scheduled to begin in April.

Residents were forced to leave their homes for demolition and receive $1,000 compensation, or relocate their homes and receive nothing.

While Ingleside played an important role in Build’s selection of issues, discussions on protecting the rights of low-income housing owners have been ongoing for years, Gaines said.

“Even with Ingleside, they wanted to make this happen, but there were no codes,” he said.

UK has no official involvement with Build or the deal brokered last night. However, Gaines said he would love for UK to start its own organization to get involved.

Negotiations between Build and Lexington the last few months are only the beginning of a long process of coordinating efforts between city offices and soliciting support from public officials.

“It’s going to take humongous effort to take us where we need to go,” Gaines said.

About an hour after yesterday’s event ended, Gordon said she was “still processing” what happened. Gordon said she is skeptical that the agreement reached last night will mean much, and if the mayor wants the mobile homes gone, “the lawyers and everyone else will get around it.”

For now, Gordon said she and her family are struggling to adjust to life outside of Ingleside. Her daughter is involved in a lawsuit for compensation after being evicted from the mobile home park, and her grandchildren are trying to get used to being uprooted from their home.

“None of us wanted to move,” she said. “Yeah, it’s not the best place, but we were a family.”