Senate Housing Bill Delayed Until 2018

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State Senator Jeff Yarbro says SB0363 shows we have our priorities in the wrong place. Photo by Peter White

By Peter White

NASHVILLE, TN – The State and Local Government Committee all but killed a senate housing bill Tuesday that would have ended set asides for affordable housing projects in Davidson County.

The bill wasn’t exactly killed, but among the dozens of bills the committee either passed on to other committees or passed up to the hill for the Legislature to vote on, SB0363 was the only one that was placed on the 2018 calendar. In short, Committee Chairman Ken Yager kicked it down the road ten months.

“We let cities grant variances all of the time for all sorts of reasons but to exclude just affordable housing from that is just wrong,” said Senator Jeff Yarbro, who represents Senate District 21 in Nashville.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Ferrell Haile from Gallatin decided not to push the bill forward even though the House passed it last week and the bill has a number of supporters in the Republican-dominated Senate.

Haile said that after talking with the Tennessee Apartment Association (TAA), which drafted the legislation and then approached Haile to introduce the bill, he wanted more time to assess how the new bill would change the 2016 law which already prohibits cities from setting aside a certain percentage of new housing construction for workforce or affordable housing at lower than market rates.

Catie Lane Bailey, TAA’s lobbyist on the Hill, said the Haile bill has the support of the Tennessee Small Business Association, The Beacon Center, the Home Builders Association of Tennessee and other construction groups.

“We have been made aware of a potential lawsuit,” Bailey told the Tribune. She declined to name the party but did say the threat did not come from any of the bill’s supporters.

If it is passed, the new bill would make it virtually impossible to meet Nashville’s housing needs for working people. In September, 2016, the city tried amending its zoning code to promote inclusionary housing and more affordable housing in Nashville.

Mayor Barry has a plan to invest $10 million in housing projects for low-income families. A carrot and stick approach using financial incentives and the power to withhold zoning permits is the strategy aimed at producing mixed income developments and more inclusive neighborhoods in Nashville.

Meanwhile, the development boom in East Nashville has replaced dozens of single family homes with tall and skinny luxury condos, two to a lot, that sell for about $500,000. The Legislature passed a “no rent control law” in 1996 that prohibits cities from controlling rents.

And the price of rental housing has skyrocketed in Nashville as developers buy and then remodel or tear down and rebuild and then double the rent. East Nashville’s historically black residents are being priced out of their own neighborhood.

If the Senate eventually passes the bill, then Metro’s workforce housing plan will be outlawed and it will put an end to Mayor Barry’s efforts to make Nashville housing more affordable to working people.

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