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Lexington Has Been Studying Ways To Avoid Displacing Low-Income Residents. Now The Report Is In.

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City of Lexington
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Lexington neighborhood residents, property owners, and planners spent two years discussing how the city can avoid moving long-time residents out of low-income areas as developers move in. This week, the group handed in more than 30 recommendations.

The Task Force on Neighborhoods in Transition deliberately avoided using a common term for the problem—gentrification—in the group name. That decision, Vice Mayor Steve Kay said, reflected an effort to balance sometimes competing ideas: maintaining the character of neighborhoods and allowing for positive development.

"It's about people who've lived in a neighborhood, who are part of the community and have liked living there and appreciate living there. It's a low-income area and they start to get forced out," Kay said Tuesday. "It's not about making improvements. It's about who gets negatively impacted by that."

And those groups are often overlooked minority populations. To identify sections of town most at risk, the task force created 16 maps tracking things like income, racial demographics, home prices, and occupancy rates. But the group also went directly to those affected. Councilman James Brown said that meant starting some difficult conversations.

"To be honest with you, all the comment that we received wasn't positive, but I think we appreciated getting that input and engagement from the public because I think it kept us honest and true to the conversations that we were having," Brown added.

From here, the recommendations—which range from changes in planning to increasing resources for those impacted—are expected to be farmed out into different Urban County Council committees.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.