It's no surprise that the phrase "affordable housing" is one of the most prevalent in this campaign season. One recent study cited that over 15% of Nashville households have housing concerns - predominantly related to cost. On top of that, urban infill development has resulted in a lot of change in neighborhoods that traditionally had an abundance of low cost housing. Finally, elderly Nashvillians and people of color are disproportionately affected by these changes.
I've spent much of the last decade on the Board of Directors for The Housing Fund working to help create and maintain affordable, healthy places in which low and moderate income people live. That experience has taught me that the policy goal of providing low-cost housing is often complicated by the realities of an economy over which our City has little control on its own.
To give some meaning to this idea, here's an example:
I'm not going to disclose the address of this project but here are some interesting numbers to consider:
Real property taxes levied at this location prior to the new homes being built was less than $1,500 a year. After the new construction, the new owners will pay almost $12,000 a year. Because Nashville needs new revenue from property taxes to pay for the needs of our growing population, there is a distinct upside to this increased revenue. There is also a distinct downside - we lost a very affordable home located just a block from public transit. Losses like these will change the fabric of our City and make it a place where only the very rich and the very poor can live. That's a bad result.
To address this situation, we should take a portion of increased revenue from every demolition and rebuild in Nashville and dedicate it to the construction of affordable housing in the neighborhood where the demolition took place. This dedication could last for 10, 15, 20 years, or longer if needed. Making such a dedication of funds like this would help us preserve the vitality and affordability of our urban neighborhoods, while acknowledging the power of the real estate market.
We've taken this approach to support businesses. There's no reason we cannot do the same thing to keep our City affordable.
The next Keith Urban or George Jones shouldn't need to have $1 million just to make their start in Nashville. If we quickly take the necessary steps, we will protect what's best about our neighborhoods, and preserve the opportunities that Nashville offers for everyone.