Nashville has a shortage of affordable housing, and if substantial, direct action isn’t taken, the situation will only worsen over the next decade. That’s the forecast from a new report by the Metro Nashville Affordable Housing Task Force, which found that Nashville will need to add more than 53,000 new units to its housing stock by 2030.
Mayor John Cooper assembled the 22-member task force back in January, and the group’s new report says the need is greatest for people at the lowest income levels in the city. It also states that more than 44 percent of renters in the city are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. (The definition of affordability according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development means a household spends no more than 30 percent of its income on housing.)
The task force lists nine recommendations, including the need to expand and improve the Barnes Housing Trust Fund — an affordable housing grant that faced a setback in 2019 when Metro impounded half of the money that was supposed to be awarded that year. The report calls for the fund to be increased from $10 million per year to $30 million, with a goal of creating 1,500 units each year. The task force’s report also recommends that the city create an inventory system to track subsidized affordable housing units, including a dashboard to track the funding and development of those units. The report calls for more investment in subsidized rental vouchers, and notes that without changes, the city will fall short of the need for subsidized units.
The authors note that for the first time, the unhoused population has been included in the city’s projected housing needs. The report projects a need for 17,827 units to help people experiencing homelessness, including permanent supportive housing and subsidized rentals. Nashville had 2,016 people experiencing homelessness according to the city’s 2020 point-in-time count.
The city’s worsening housing crisis is illustrated particularly well by two recent news stories. First was the response from homelessness advocates to news that the city planned to close the encampment underneath the Jefferson Street Bridge on June 1. The city says most people under the bridge have been connected to a housing navigator; advocates who have been critical of the city’s plan corroborated that claim for the most part, but added that some people are still falling through the cracks. Advocates also say that many of the folks under the bridge might not find housing anytime soon. The Scene spoke to a few folks at the camp in recent weeks who said they hope for housing opportunities but were unsure of when those might come along. One man asked, “Where are we gonna go?”
As of press time, there are still people camped under the bridge — the Metro Nashville Police Department says there are no enforcement plans — though the city and the advocates at Open Table disagree on the number of people currently staying there. The MNPD says there are as few as three people at the camp but notes that the numbers can fluctuate. Open Table says that last week the group identified eight people without navigators, in addition to five people who do have housing navigators still living at the camp. Eight camp residents also showed up to a weekly meeting Open Table hosted.
A press conference on June 1 decrying the decision to close the encampment brought together homelessness service providers and housing advocates. Alongside calls to keep the camp open were calls for the city to institute initiatives involving housing rather than the police budget. Also at the conference were tenants from the Mosaic Apartments, who said they too were being evicted.
Several tenants at the Mosaic Apartments say that on Friday, May 21, they received phone calls telling them they would have to leave their homes by the following Monday. Tenants began to rally and organize, with assistance from labor advocates at Workers’ Dignity. It was initially unclear what management told tenants — many mentioned the short notice, but some also heard they could move back after a few weeks or could get refunds on their security deposits.
The apartment’s ownership eventually released public statements saying tenants would have to relocate due to repairs from flooding damage, and that they would receive compensation for doing so. Eventually a meeting between Mosaic residents and the complex’s owner, who lives out of state, was arranged. The owner’s attorney said that as few as seven tenants would actually need to leave, and that they could possibly relocate elsewhere at Mosaic. That claim was at odds with what some tenants say management told them — advising them to find hotel rooms or storage lockers.
Tenants also had several other complaints, and it appeared that some were facing evictions for reasons unrelated to the flooding damage. Tenants described poor conditions, a lack of maintenance and rude property management, none of which was a good look for Rob Bond, the out-of-state owner of Mosaic Apartments. The stories also highlighted how challenging it is to find safe and affordable housing in Nashville, especially on short notice.
One woman who spoke at the meeting said she had to sell her car to afford moving costs. “It’s impossible to find another home in just one week,” she said.