A couple of weeks ago, I discussed the topic of housing and how unaffordable it has become in the U.S.. The housing issue is not just a concern for the poor but is also a concern for middle income families. When teachers, policemen and other public servants cannot afford homes, we have a problem. Housing affordability is a top ranked concern according to researchers.
According to appartmentlist.com, Nashville Tennessee has the 5th fastest growing rent rate at 7.3%. The city of Nashville needs 1,500 additional affordable units each year to meet the new demand. Our community has approximately 77,000 below the median income rate and are spending more than one third of their income on housing. There are approximately 27,000 living in public or subsidized housing and there are thousands of more waiting to be added.
What is the justification? This community is enjoying successes like we have never seen. New buildings, arenas, hotels and stores are springing up all over the area. Why are rents higher but the wages remain low? One would think with the growth of the city and the improvement in the economy, wages would grow. However, I have heard from people who are working two and three jobs just to afford to stay in their homes. People are working longer and harder and cannot get ahead. Meanwhile, the wealth gap continues to grow. This is not sustainable. There is and will be a tipping point and I am not optimistic about process.
What can be done? A Nashville Next study of Equitable Development makes great suggestions. We should build on the community’s success. A larger portion of the revenues gained from visitors to our community needs to be used for affordable housing projects. More money is needed to add into the Barnes Housing Trust Fund which makes competitive grants to non-profit housing developers to increase affordable housing options in Nashville. The council also needs to pass an inclusionary housing ordinance to require some developments to remain affordable. We should preserve affordable units long term by creating a shared equity housing program to provide public money to build housing that must remain affordable in the future.
I see three ways we can immediately make an impact this election year. First, we need to educate ourselves on the issues. Find out who your local representatives are. Secondly, we need to keep pressure on our elected officials to work for us and not against us. Call, tweet, post and write your local representatives and let them know what needs to be done. Finally, hold our elected officials accountable for their actions. Register to vote and If they are not supporting us, then we should vote them out. Next week, we will look at other ways we can take action.
If these things inspire you, and you want to share your ideas, please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff. You can also check out my web site: thomsustainableconsulting.com