By Kay Bowers
NASHVILLE, TN — Often using these two phrases together can be a lightning rod creating negative images in people’s minds that limits their thinking and interest in engaging meaningful conversation affordable housing and its impact. Affordable housing is too important to thousands of Nashvillians for us to accept narrow mindedness when it comes to tackling the housing challenges we face. When individuals and families have to use more than 30% of their income to cover housing costs which includes utilities they are considered cost burdened and their housing is unaffordable. Today in Nashville 49% of our renters and 31% of homeowners with a mortgage spend 31% or more on housing costs. To compound problems we have lost thousands of homes that were once affordable to lower and middle income households in the last 6 years.
To afford the fair market rent someone needs a monthly income of $4,627 or an annual income of $55,000. About 35% of all jobs in the Nashville region are in sectors where the median wage is less than $15/hr. Thousands of workers our city depends on do not earn anywhere near $55,000 and are struggling under high housing costs or unaffordable housing.
We cross paths with these workers every day. They are taking care of our children in our schools and our loved ones in hospitals, keeping our grocery store shelves stocked, preparing and serving the meals we eat in our restaurants and working at any number of government offices, hotels or entertainment venues around town.
The next time you sit down at one of your favorite lunch spots, stop at the grocery store or walk past a support worker at your child’s school try asking yourself three questions, I wonder what their monthly income is, I wonder what how much rent they are paying and I wonder where they live. Having quality, safe and affordable housing or not dramatically affects our children’s emotional health, their ability to learn and achieve. It matters when it comes to our health, the health of our community and the costs of our healthcare. It matters for the stability of families, our workforce and the safety of our neighborhoods. Housing matters to all of us.
Kay Bowers is a champion for affordable housing and the Executive Director of New Level Community Development Corporation in Nashville TN, where she has served for the past 12 years.