By a number of labor and economic measures, Nashville is the place to be.
“In 2012, the city ranked first in the nation among large metro regions for fastest job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,” Margaret Littman reported for Next City in 2014. “Nashville has added jobs faster than the nation in every year since 1990. Perhaps most tellingly, the city’s gross metropolitan product — the regional GDP — grew by 4.2 percent in 2013, double the national average; the city ranked third in economic growth after booming Austin and San Jose.”
That popularity, of course, brings a number of challenges, particularly in the area of housing. This week, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s office released a detailed report on the state of affordability in the city:
Nearly one out of four Nashville homeowners is cost-burdened, meaning they are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Almost half of our renters are cost-burdened, including more than 70 percent of low-income renters.
Nashville needs roughly 31,000 affordable rental units by 2025, according to The Tennessean. One solution being proposed by the mayor is a first for the city. The newspaper reports she has “unveiled plans to issue $25 million in general obligation bonds to purchase and rehabilitate existing multifamily rental units as a way to preserve affordable units. Dollars also will go toward building affordable housing units on Metro-owned properties.”
Barry has made affordable housing a priority. Next City has covered several other initiatives proposed to help with Nashville’s crunch. In 2015, a working group was created to encourage “affordable growth.” The following year, the Metro Council approved two proposals aimed at boosting the supply of affordable housing in Davidson County:
The first — and less controversial — piece of legislation outlines a new three-year pilot program that lets residential developers who agree to build affordably priced units compete for $2 million in grants. The trial program is optional for developers, and after its three years are up the council and mayor’s office will review the effectiveness of the program and decide whether or not to continue it.
The second bill centers around inclusionary zoning, and requires apartment developers in Nashville who are building five or more units to include a percentage of new affordable housing units in their projects when they request a zoning variance for the likes of density or height. The grants pilot program could help offset developers’ costs associated with making housing cheaper than market value.
In 2013, the city opened its first subsidized housing specifically for artists, Ryman Lofts. But as Littman noted in a Next City feature the following year: “The lofts rented quickly and now have a long wait-list.”
To read the full report released by Barry’s office, click here.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.