Who helps when your home is condemned?

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Given days to find a new place to live after his apartment was condemned, Lexington man Lawrence Miller says a city program helped him secure a new place to live.

“That was instrumental in getting this done and making it happen real quick,” said Miller.

Miller learned Bourbon Court Apartments were determined unfit for occupancy by code enforcement officers when he got home from work and saw a notice on his building.

“I went to pay my rent and find out why is this notice posted on my building, and there was nobody there, and the office was gone,” explained Miller.

He says that’s when he realized it was time to go. The issue was he had no clue how to pay for it or where to go.

City workers notified residents who were impacted about available help with relocation. There’s a program that offers up to a thousand dollars to some low-income tenants whose homes are condemned so that they can move.

Miller applied within the seven-day timeline and got the assistance he needed from the Relocation Housing Assistance Program (RHAP). RHAP funds can be used for a rental security deposit, 1st-month rental assistance, utility deposits and/or arrears, and moving expenses.

“I had no idea things like that were set up. I never needed assistance before,” said Miller.

It’s a situation he couldn’t predict he’d be in, but at least 180 others have experienced in Lexington this year alone.

Nearly two hundred units a year have been condemned in the city since 2021 according to city records.

It’s one of the only tools city officials have to hold property owners accountable for unsafe living conditions.

Housing commissioner, Charlie Lanter, says it’s a decision that’s not taken lightly.

“There are times when the health and safety of a property or condition of a unit are such that we have no choice. We have to get the folks out of that property and into somewhere else,” said Lanter. “We also know and recognize that a lot of times the properties in that condition are properties that lower or moderate-income people are living in, and they don’t have the resources to just pick up and move.”

Lanter says it’s why his office pushed for increased funding to the Tenant Relocation Fund, which supports city programs dedicated to helping people facing the same situation.

Council members approved doubling the amount of money budgeted in the fund managed by Community and Resident Services to support more people this year.

Director Danielle Sanders says they wanted to make sure they could meet the increase in need since the pandemic began.

“We know that if you’re in your home and you’re comfortable, and then something happens, and you’re placed in a position where you have to leave. You know, it’s a financial burden on somebody. It’s an emotional burden on somebody,” said Sanders. “Even if it were just you, but if you have family, if you have children, a lot of things have to go into play when it comes to relocating.”

This year so far, the city’s relocation programs, RHAP and STLA (short-term lodging assistance), have helped 65 families.

“Just making sure that people know it’s available through the city. I think that a lot of times, people are in crisis and situations, and sometimes just knowing if you just call 311 and explain this is what I have going on. There are some informed operators there who will say, ‘oh, we have this available, we have this available.’ Calling your council person — this is my situation,” said Sanders.

There are specific income requirements for the program and limits on the amount people can receive.

The maximum amount is $1,000.

You can call 859-300-5300 to see if you qualify for any one of the 10 community assistance programs the city operates.

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