Op-ed by Marshall Crawford, Jr. CEO and President of The Housing Fund

The term preservation is defined as “the activity or process of keeping something valued alive, intact, or free from damage or decay.” This word and definition have been used more frequently in recent months to ensure that property construction and rehabilitation are not undertaken at the expense of community destruction.

Rebuilding efforts must center the interests and goals of the community. To create equitable and sustainable change we must ensure the “activities or processes” being utilized and/or implemented are in the best interest of the community and homeowners in North Nashville.

We all know that homeownership is still considered the primary source of wealth accumulation for families over the course of their life. We also know that while the topic of affordable housing has garnered a lot of attention, we have overlooked the fact that finding and sustaining housing affordability is a prevalent challenge for African American and Latinos in Nashville. By addressing the systemic ills that continue to perpetuate disparities in homeownership, we need to acknowledge the root cause of these differences and take action to keep our historically marginalized communities intact.

Since 1996, The Housing Fund has been committed to serving our community and making homeownership possible for everyone, particularly members of marginalized groups. With the overlapping and interrelated challenges this year has presented, our commitment has continued to fuel our desire to serve and support our community.

Prior to the recent tornadoes, The Housing Fund received a generous donation to support current homeowners in the North Nashville community, specifically homeowners within the 37208-zip code. The donation provided an opportunity to help predominately senior residents repair and restore various aspects of their homes. The capital helped these homeowners replace worn and dangerous flooring, install new wheelchair accessible ramps, repair worn and leaky roofs, and rewire electrical wiring throughout their homes. The overall objective was to protect those with health concerns, and/or those caring for a family member with health concerns.

After the March 3rd tornadoes, we developed the Power of 10 Initiative to assist customers who experienced significant loss. We were able to repurpose $100,000 in grant resources provided by various financial institutions and partners to help preserve homeownership and ensure our community members had sufficient resources to rebuild, reconstruct and restore their properties. The Power of 10 Initiative has provided a variety of grants and loans up to $10,000 to supplement the disaster assistance funding individuals, families and small businesses received from agencies such as the Red Cross, FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

On March 3, ten tornadoes touched down across Tennessee causing extensive damage to homes and businesses throughout Middle Tennessee. Ms. Natasha Lane’s home was one of the properties damaged by the storms. Ms. Lane’s late husband had purchased the house for her as their family home in 1994. After nearly 27 years, Ms. Lane’s home was unexpectedly subjected to structural, internal, and external damage. And though her homeowner’s insurance had not been renewed, combined resources of family, friends, FEMA, and The Housing Fund provided Ms. Lane with the funds needed to restore her home.

Interlocking systemic factors and lack of available affordable housing has made the 37208 community a prime target for gentrification, reducing the number of affordable housing options and increasing the threat of displacement for long-time homeowners and residents. Before the tornadoes, low wage families were cost burden with little left for food, healthcare and transportation. Additionally, their greater insecurity in housing increased the possibility of being evicted. By partnering with Gideon’s Army, we have been able to offer small dollar resources to help more individuals within the 37208 community.

The impetus of our mission is to mitigate the gaps created by structural inequalities through providing opportunities and support for groups and communities that are often overlooked and marginalized. The Housing Fund is dedicated to doing our part to support our community and create pathways for all Nashvillians to have affordable housing, create and sustain wealth, and have access to all of the possibilities and opportunities our city has to offer. We will continue to respond to social and systemic challenges, as we advocate for inclusive growth and the possibilities of homeownership.