Nashville is growing like crazy. Rents have skyrocketed. How can ordinary people afford to live there?

Nashville is booming, as are rental prices.

The picturesque town of 670,000 inhabitants has grown by 10% over the past decade, making it one of the most rapidly growing cities. It also fueled the 17% growth of the entire metro during the same period. As a result, city authorities have made efforts in recent years to find ways to increase the availability of affordable housing.

Development of the city center has been rapid, with new skyscrapers dotting the skyline every year and more and more people relocating to the city’s business district. Nearly 500 restaurants have opened in the city since 2010, making the Nashville area nearly half of all restaurants in the state.

In fact, the growth has been so explosive that a local task force assembled to solve the problem recently concluded that the country music hotbed and growing tech hub must triple the number of affordable homes built each year over the course of the year. the next few years. Otherwise, the city could suffer from further affordable housing shortages, according to a June report from the Metro Nashville Affordable Housing Task Force.

The 22-person task force was organized in January 2021 and includes people from various city departments, developers and community organizations committed to making Nashville an affordable place to live.

Over the past 10 years, tech companies that have moved to the city known for country music have created thousands of high paying jobs. In 2020, the the Wall Street newspaper named Nashville the second hottest job market in the United States behind Austin, and the Today’s show named it one of the best post-pandemic cities.

Although the city is popular with businesses, job seekers and tourists, the city’s housing problems are increasingly magnified. Federal data from 2019 showed that 44% of Nashville residents are burdened with housing costs, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Nashville is $ 1,746 per month, more than 1.5 times the Memphis rent ($ 988) and still higher than the average one-bedroom rent in Austin. , in Texas, which is $ 1,396.

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, affordable housing is units available to people who make up to 80% of the region’s median income. For a family of four in Nashville, that would be $ 67,450 or less. As per the HUD definition, occupants should not pay more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

The city recently added more than 13,000 jobs with tech company Oracle and the headquarters of e-commerce giant Amazon in Nashville. The average salary for Oracle jobs is $ 110,000, but Oracle did not say whether that average includes higher executive salaries and how many employees would make six digits, Tennessee reports.

Still, some affordable housing advocates fear the city does not have enough affordable housing for people moving to Nashville for these new jobs.

“For people who need more housing for less than $ 1,000 a month or $ 800 a month, where are they going to go? Are we, as a city, going to collectively decide that they have to move to another riding, or are we going to work to create housing? Said Eddie Latimer, CEO of Affordable Housing Solutions.

For 30 years, Affordable Housing Resources, a Nashville-based nonprofit, has been developing affordable housing and helping residents buy their own homes. Thanks to AHR, more than 17,000 people have bought their first homes. The association has developed and sold over 1,400 single-family homes.

The city, along with other advocates and nonprofit groups, are using a variety of means to try to address the affordable housing shortage.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper hopes to increase funding for affordable housing efforts in his 2022 budget, which has yet to be approved.

“Nashville has to be a city that works for everyone,” Cooper said. “And – in a city that works for everyone – everyone who works here should be able to live here. This includes our teachers, our first responders, and food service workers – the essential workers who have helped us through this past year. “

In the proposed budget, Cooper allocated $ 36 million for affordable housing efforts. The budget includes $ 22.5 million for the Barnes Housing Trust Fund. The goal of this funding increase is to increase the number of affordable housing units produced each year through grants from the fund.

The Barnes Fund provides grants to developers of affordable housing to increase the share of affordable housing in the city. The fund is supported by state, federal and philanthropic donations.

Cooper also proposed using city-owned land for affordable housing and creating new taxes on hotels, short-term rentals and expensive developments to fund affordable housing efforts.

The city has recently embraced and offered creative solutions to the shortage. In May, for example, Nashville approved a measure allowing owners of single-family homes to build rental units on their properties.

Under the measure, homeowners must zoning their property and are prohibited from using the units for short-term rentals such as AirBnb, which some advocates say has exacerbated the housing shortage and increases the costs of home and ownership.

While other cities like Denver have used arrangements similar to Nashville-approved backyard rentals, some affordable housing advocates fear homeowners will turn backyard rentals into AirBnb properties.

Angie Henderson, a Nashville city councilor, opposed short-term rental housing in areas zoned for residential housing. She voted against the measure and said she was concerned that backyard rentals would have “unintended consequences” – meaning more Airbnb rentals in the backyard, said reported the Tennessean.

Henderson has advocated for sunset provisions on AirBnb-style properties and rentals in Nashville and urged fellow councilors to consider the needs of residents before the attraction of tourism development.

“Our advice that ensures places to live is more fundamental to our success as a city than our investments in commercial hotels in residential areas,” she said last year in a discussion on the question.

Outside of short-term rentals swallow housing stock in Nashville neighborhoods, other issues make it more difficult to create more affordable housing. Latimer said the high cost of land in the metro area along with the high costs of building materials could threaten the ability of developers to build affordable single or multi-family homes.

“We’re just at a strange time in life. It will work out eventually, but in the immediate 24 or 36 months I’m not sure we can increase the production of affordable housing without some kind of government incentive to bring in the for-profit guys in partnership with the guys to. nonprofit, ”Latimer said.

This is the first in an occasional series on how rapidly growing southern cities are addressing affordable housing challenges. Let us know if we should take a look at your city by emailing Anna Beahm at [email protected]

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