July 17, 2024

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Rotarians aim to raise millions of dollars for a program to turn West End renters into homeowners.
The highway overpass at 9th and West Main has long held a symbolic title: the 9th Street Divide. This area is known as the dividing line between downtown Louisville and the city’s West End.
“If you’re looking like I am, to the East, you’re looking at a prosperous downtown, with hotels being built and distilleries being built. Behind me, not so much,” Luke Shmidt said.
Schmidt is a longtime member of the Louisville Rotary Club and pointed out how for decades, the residents of West Louisville have faced the impact of “redlining,” the discriminatory and illegal practice of withholding opportunities based on race and culture.
Redlining in the West End is often showed by the lack of business and civic developments that are commonplace in more affluent areas of the city. The lack of grocery stores, shopping centers, hospitals and new residential areas are often attributed to redlining. 
It’s for this reason Schmidt feels the 9th Street Divide was a thoughtful place to announce a new loan program led by the Louisville Rotary Club with a partnership with Park Community Credit Union.
“Our goal is to raise $5 million… Park will then turn around and will find creative and alternative ways to provide home loans to first-time homebuyers living in low and moderate income census tracts,” Schmidt explained.
The underlying truth is West Louisville families who could afford a mortgage have been denied home ownership countless times.
“Many times the rent they are paying is two to three times the mortgage for that very house. So how do we get them into being a homeowner?” Denise Sears said.
This program, the “West Louisville Housing Initiative, would consider more than a family’s credit score and the money raised would help pay down payments for a home, insurance, and other costs and in addition, applicants would take part in financial literacy courses.
“A lot of the people who live in West Louisville have demonstrated an ability to make payments, but because of various qualifying rules they can’t qualify for a conventional mortgage, it just doesn’t work,” Schmidt added. “So this is an effort to make it work and help West Louisville begin to create generational wealth.”
In fact, according to Schmidt, 80% of West Louisville residents rent. Schmidt believes everyone deserves a fair chance to buy. 

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