Despite need, why is affordable housing hard to find in Nashville?

Why it just isn't possible to build affordable housing in the ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Affordable housing is housing that an individual or family earning 60 percent or less of the median household income can afford without being cost-burdened.

In Tennessee, that’s $48,547.

We’ve heard that more affordable housing is needed in Nashville, but it’s getting harder to find.

According to current government statistics from Nashville.gov, a Nashville resident needs a monthly income of $4,627 to be able to afford the average fair market rent. That’s where affordable housing comes into play.

Every year, the IRS tells the Tennessee Housing Development Agency how many millions of dollars in low-income housing tax credits they’re allowed to give developers to build or rehabilitate affordable housing.

It’s a competitive process, and in some counties, the developer is taxed for receiving a tax credit, making it more difficult and expensive to build affordable housing in those counties.

“With the exception of the deals that we’ve helped MDHA do, 1/3 of the tax credit awards we’ve made for developments in Davidson County in the last five years have come back to us. It’s a million seven in annual tax credits that have been essentially wasted,” said THDA Executive Director Ralph Perrey.

In some cases, affordable housing development is getting blocked.

“We saw one Metro councilperson try to rezone the property out from under the person that we gave the tax credits to. Now that didn’t work, but it delayed everything for a couple of years and time is money,” Perrey told News 2.

Affordable housing is not the same thing as government housing.

Perrey said, “These aren’t the projects. No one’s living there for free. And if you look at some of the examples of what we have built here in Nashville, these are awfully nice places. You know in other parts of the state, we helped build these new apartments and they turn away applications from doctors at the hospital who are just new to town and they go well I’ll pay more and they can’t.”

You may drive by some of these buildings every day, and never realize they’re actually home to affordable housing.

“We take people around, we show them Laurel House, we show them the properties on Rolling Mill Hill. See, this is the kind of thing that gets built with the help of the housing tax credit,” said Perrey.

He also says it’s important to realize that this something positive for Nashville.

“You’re still paying rent, it’s not a place that’s going to attract layabouts and troublemakers, these are people, you know, getting their first job out of school and earning $13 an hour, you’re income qualified for one of those. Nursing techs at the hospital, grocery clerks, teachers aids, people doing any number of jobs that are really important for the community and they’ve got an opportunity to live in a property like that as opposed to driving in from two hours outside of town,” said Perrey.

He told News 2 that in some cases, these apartments are catalysts for improvement in the neighborhood around it.

We’re also told almost 70 percent of Nashvillians fall into either “affordable” or “workforce” housing income brackets, so you can see why there’s such a great need for more affordable housing.

Click here to learn more about affordable housing and seeing if you qualify.

You can also find more information at Nashvile.gov.

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