By Thomas Sheffield

This year is an election year and affordable housing is a huge issue.  Gentrification is our fault, well not fully but we do have some responsibility.  Some may be as appalled as hearing Kanye West say, “slavery was a choice”.  But I am not going to dignify that idiotic quote with a response.  I choose to look at our role in gentrification.    What if I told you I wanted to build a group of homes in or near your community that were “affordable homes”?  What would come to mind?  Would you think of homes that are cheaply built?  Do you think of homes that will drive down your property value?  Do you think of garbage and crime?  Do you think of a big dog chained to a tree in the front yard or cars on blocks that don’t run?  Many times, our own perceptions get in our way.  We can be our own worst enemy.  The challenge is to change our way of thinking and grow.  Therefore, I challenge you by saying, gentrification is our fault.

Workforce housing according to HUD, is defined as: “Is for a household to pay no more than 30% of its annual income on housing”.  According to the state of Tennessee, the average income in Tennessee is $19.85 per hour.  That equals roughly $41,000 per year.  If you live in Tennessee based on the HUD definition and the average income level, many of us can afford a home between $110-150k home or pay a $1,000 monthly mortgage.    If you live in a neighborhood whose comps were $200k and above, and I told you I was going to build and sell homes between $110-150k, what would you say?  Would you welcome your workforce neighbors with open arms?  If you were a builder or land developer, would you be willing to build homes at that price and make a return on your investment for less than you could if you charged more?  The answer is NO.  

Citizens and elected leaders turn their noses up at the idea of this type of community being built in their districts.  We all want the most for our property.  We want to see our property value go up, but we must be careful what we ask for.  We do not want the property value to go so high, that we cannot afford to live there (gentrification).  We must change our mindset.  We have the power to make changes and ensure we all have an equal shot at affordable housing.  We should demand a livable wage for everyone.  We should not have to work 2-3 jobs just to live or make ends meet.  No one should have to make false choices each month on what bill will be paid.  A rising tide lift all boats as we develop sustainable communities.  But we should accept responsibility for our role in gentrification. 

Please feel free to contact me or you can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff. #Resist #WordsActionChange