City leaders reflect on housing issues

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, July 6, 2023

First in a multi-part series.


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With the current Danville City Commission having served for six months, Mayor James J.H. Atkins along with commissioners Donna Peek and Jennie Hollon reflected on what the commission has accomplished this year as well as what’s ahead.

Access to more housing and more affordable housing has been an important topic as Danville and Boyle County continue to attract new employers and add more jobs.

Boyle County has grown by 7.7 percent since in the past 13 years, from 28,668 in 2010 to an estimated 30,904, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“I think as more small businesses and industrial developments happen, there will be a need of affordable housing for that workforce,” Atkins said. “The better-paying jobs we bring to this community, the more we will have a need for affordable housing developments. We should also look at housing regionally, if Harrodsburg and Stanford have affordable workforce housing developments, that doesn’t solve our housing problem but it might if our workforce lives there. It isn’t the best-case scenario for us but it would be good for people struggling to find housing.”

Peek reiterated that the need for affordable housing is a complex issue that involves more than just city hall.

“The question is what is affordable housing? It is (means something) different to different people,” Peek said. “There are different groups in Danville meeting about housing. It is not something the commission can fix on their own it needs to be a community effort.”

The area needs more than new housing as the area continues to grow. There also is the challenge of an increasing homeless population.

“In our budget we are trying to set aside city funds to get things started. I still advocate that city government shouldn’t be in the housing business,” Atkins said. “If we can find a place to set aside for that and get community involvement and investment in it, the community could operate and run a homeless shelter. There are several people in this town that are homeless for several reasons. That could be economic, because they veterans, mental problems. You also have others in our community who are homeless because of drugs, they might be a single parent, male or female. You have to identify those populations. It takes a lot of time and organization to run that place. To move that needle forward, the city manager and I are talking to community leaders who have already been involved with helping the homeless.”

Among the challenges of creating resources for the homeless is finding an acceptable location, Hollon said.

“One of the first issues we ran into was that people don’t want it near them, which is awful,” Hollon said. “The solution is that Planning and Zoning are going to start the comprehensive plan and future land use map. That’s not just for Danville, it is Boyle, Perryville and Junction City. We need to go out and get all community citizens involved and get their input.

“The first step is to get the future land-use map up to par and have the community say where they want housing. That is why we need the input of Perryville and Junction City. There is room for growth. With the rise in price of construction materials it is a challenge for everybody. Once we have designated areas for multi family growth you won’t have neighborhoods hiring lawyers to stop it. I love the new developments on Baughman and East Main. There are smaller homes for rent in Junction. It is not enough, but it is a start.”