Credit: Nashville Banner illustration

There are a dozen different metrics that illustrate just how unaffordable it has become to buy a home in Nashville, but this is one of the simplest: In September 2018, according to sales data compiled by Redfin, the median price of a home sold in Davidson County was $275,000. By May 2023, that median price had risen to $446,000.

Data compiled by the Affordable Housing Task Force shows the picture is no better for those who rent. In January 2020, the average monthly rent being asked in Nashville was $1,400, but by July 2022, that number had grown to $2,400.

Those are staggering figures that have implications for both buyers and renters alike at almost any price level. And it means that the affordable housing crisis is the most urgent issue the next mayor will face. 

The core of Nashville’s affordable housing problem is simple: Nashville needs more places to live for lower prices. But when you begin to consider what creating that housing actually looks like, things begin to get far more complex. As with most issues, the elephant in the room is funding. But between for-profit development eating up land, state preemption interrupting incentives for developers, out-of-date zoning code and a bottlenecked permit system, an already expensive problem begins to feel insurmountable. 

“Nashville really hasn’t made a bit of headway on any front of affordable housing,” says Brent Elrod, the managing director at Urban Housing Solutions, a nonprofit that develops and manages affordable housing. “It’s a wicked problem, and it’s affecting so many different levels of income across the city. It’s not really neighborhood-specific or demographic-specific anymore.”

The affordable housing crisis has been emerging in cities nationwide, and with the continued rapid growth in Nashville, solving the problem is truly a race against time. Nashville has grown by 20 percent in the past decade, making it one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. On top of population growth, inflation of construction costs and the sheer price of acquiring land have made it more difficult for numerous nonprofits to develop housing at a cost that allows them to sell or rent at affordable rates.

“Before 2015, we could buy land very cheap — it wasn’t an issue,” says Mark Wright, executive director of Be a Helping Hand, an affordable housing nonprofit. “After 2015-2016, it was nearly impossible for us to buy land.”

As people moved to Nashville from more expensive parts of the country, housing prices were driven up, and for-profit developers began buying up land in prime areas of the city where housing is needed the most, along major pikes and surrounding the downtown area. 

It’s not uncommon for a Nashvillian working a hospitality or service job downtown to get priced out of anywhere nearby and have to move farther from the city center.

The Affordable Housing Task Force established by Mayor John Cooper found in a 2021 report that in order to meet the city’s needs, taking into account both current demand and future growth, Nashville needs to create 52,498 new units of housing by 2030, which would require creation of an average of 5,250 units per year — from both new construction and making existing units affordable to those who need them. At the time of the report, the production level of affordable units was 1,344 per year. 

This mirrors an overall national trend in new home starts. Since the economy crashed in 2008, new home starts in the U.S. have consistently lagged behind the need for them. This is particularly true for homes at the lower end, leading the New York Times to write in 2022, “What Ever Happened to the Starter Home?” 

Area Median Income (AMI) is the metric used to determine what is affordable. If a household pays 30 percent or less of its income on housing, it is considered affordable.  A household that spends more than 30 percent of its income on housing is considered cost burdened. The need for housing units in Nashville largely falls between 0-80 percent of AMI. 

“In 2021 for a family of 4, that range represents income levels from $0 – $67,450,” notes the Affordable Housing Task Force’s report. In 2023, rent for a one-bedroom apartment at 60 percent of AMI should cost no more than $1,070 to be considered affordable. The heaviest burden lies in the lowest income ranges, where there is a need of 35,715 units by 2030. 

Some grants, such as those coming out of the city’s Barnes Fund, are made available to developers based on building housing that is affordable to households making 60 percent of AMI or less. The Barnes Fund, which was established in 2013 by then-Mayor Karl Dean, is the most significant source of funding for affordable housing, investing almost $93 million in affordable housing to date — funding that in turn makes the city more appealing for competitive federal grants. The Affordable Housing Task Force’s report recommended budgeting $30 million per year to the Barnes Fund, a number that was met in this year’s budget. But experts say that won’t be enough. 

“The Barnes Fund has been a very well-used, effective tool,” says Eddie Latimer, CEO of Affordable Housing Resources, another affordable housing nonprofit. “But the emphasis is on ‘a.’ It is ‘a’ tool, and it’s working really well. But with the cost of land, with the cost of construction, it just doesn’t produce as many units as it used to. We need other tools.”

What has John Cooper’s Administration Done On Affordable Housing?

The biggest product of Cooper’s time in office has been the establishment of a baseline for moving forward. 

The creation of the affordable housing task force and the ensuing 2021 report was a big wake-up call for the city. While the affordable housing crisis had already become apparent by the end of the last decade, it really wasn’t until Cooper’s term that we figured out just how drastic of a response the crisis would require. The task force and the data it put together is vital in figuring out what the city’s housing needs are.

Cooper also managed to get funding for the Barnes Fund on track. While a budget crisis at the beginning of his term temporarily threw things off, his administration since has been able to meet requests, outpacing Barnes funding from previous years. In fiscal year 2019, the Barnes Fund provided for construction of 327 new units. In fiscal year 2022, that number grew to 1,434. 

It’s a drastic problem that will require drastic solutions, but at the very least, the past four years have established a good baseline for the next mayor to build off of. 

What Can the Next Mayor Do?

It’s become a common refrain on the campaign trail to say Nashville has had enough of plans and it needs action. But when it comes to affordable housing, a cohesive, streamlined plan might need to be the first step if the next mayor wants to start making a dent in the crisis. 

Nashville has a lot of nonprofits and organizations working to develop housing, and with each one focusing on different needs, income levels and demographics, the next mayor will have plenty of experts to tap in forging a path forward. 

“I don’t want to see somebody get elected and then shut the door to experience, which has happened over and over and over again,” says Latimer. “They hire these out-of-town gurus out of Denver and [Washington] D.C. who know nothing about our market to come in and come up with some plan, which winds up on the shelf.”

Affordable Housing Resources, Urban Housing Solutions and Be a Helping Hand recently came together with seven other affordable housing nonprofits to create the Alliance for an Affordable Nashville. The 10 nonprofits hope they not only can become a resource for the mayor and other elected officials to tap into going forward, but that they also can begin to coordinate their efforts to create housing as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

“Nonprofits have to follow the same guidelines as for-profits, but we’re not as lucrative or have as many funds to apply for our projects,” says Wright. Wright, Latimer and Elrod all say one of the most significant issues is people don’t understand what is required to create a unit of affordable housing. Costs typically grow from the time of a proposal to final approval and funding. In one case, Elrod says UHS had to apply for a second round of Barnes funding just to fill the gap that was created by the time it took for them to get the project approved and finalized. 

One of the biggest steps the next administration will need to take simply is making it easier to build affordable housing. This could mean a number of things: prioritizing affordable housing in the permitting process, updating codes to smooth out the process of getting approved and even eliminating single-family zoning to allow more multi-family homes to be built in the urban core.  

Housing is a simple problem with complex solutions. The next mayor will need to be ready to prioritize finding creative ways to streamline and simplify the rapid creation of a diverse portfolio of housing units.

“I feel sure that the next mayor will have affordable housing as their No. 1 priority in office,” says Elrod. “It’s a mandate, and I think if the next mayor fails to deliver, they won’t make it to a second term.”

On the Record

We asked candidates three questions about affordable housing. Here are their unedited responses (in alphabetical order).

This year’s budget put $30 million into the Barnes Fund. Experts say it will require larger financial commitments if we are going to solve the affordable housing crisis. As mayor, how much would you put towards the Barnes fund in your proposed budget and how would you pull together the funding?

Heidi Campbell: As a city, Nashville must increase the supply of affordable housing by expanding on existing public and private partnerships and the Barnes Fund is a critical partner for doing just that. The Barnes Fund has had incredible success taking public investments from metro Nashville and leveraging those dollars to raise additional private and philanthropic money, meaning that every dollar invested by metro Nashville has a multiplying effect. Simply put, this is a smart investment for us to make in order to expand affordable housing across the city. The increase of funding for this program under Mayor Cooper’s administration has been impressive, and I will work to continue to grow the current $30 million budget by at least 5% a year with the goal of reaching at least 20% by the end of my first term.

Jim Gingrich: We’ve done multiple affordable housing studies. Each one tells us the problem is worse than the last time we studied it, and each has provided recommendations. Unfortunately, like many studies commissioned by the city, they have for the most part gathered dust on the shelf. At this point, the city needs tens of thousands of units of affordable housing and billions of dollars of investment will be required to adequately address the situation.

The costs of this crisis are many. Seniors, the middle class and young people increasingly find our city unaffordable. Recruiting teachers, police officers, and workers for our hospitality industry is challenging. Indeed, the overwhelming percentage of the region’s population growth is now occurring in the surrounding counties, with those workers commuting into Nashville, clogging our highways and streets. The situation is urgent and the time for action is now.

The Barnes fund is an important vehicle in catalyzing the non-profit community, and does need consistent, adequate funding. However, the magnitude of the challenge means that the city will require significantly greater capital be deployed by the private sector. But, those in the private sector that focus on affordable housing consistently say that Nashville is among the most difficult cities in which to actually construct affordable housing. As mayor, we will ensure that Nashville partners with the private sector to dramatically increase the affordable housing stock being constructed:

  • Dramatically streamline the approval, permitting, and inspection timelines for those constructing or preserving affordable housing
  • Reform our zoning laws to facilitate additional density for those constructing affordable housing
  • Make use of city and MDHA land to facilitate public/private partnerships
  • Explore funding that would provide lower cost equity and debt capital to those constructing or preserving affordable housing, as is being done in cities like Chattanooga and Charlotte

Sharon Hurt: As Mayor, I would increase the funding to $100 million. However, a lot of times the larger nonprofits get the majority of the Barnes funding. I want to ensure that the additional funding I put in gets shared with the smaller nonprofits. I have lived experience on the difficulty of getting Barnes funding as a small nonprofit from when I was building affordable housing at JUMP.

We can pull funding for affordable housing from two sources. The first source is all the corporations that have moved into Nashville in the past few years. Nashville gives so much to these corporations and they should give back Nashville through PILOTs and CBAs that fund affordable housing. The second is federal sources like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. As the CEO of JUMP, I received funding from this federal program to provide dozens of affordable housing units for families. We can help nonprofits apply to programs like this to get the affordable housing we need.

Freddie O’Connell: I’d be interested to know which experts you’re citing. A significant panel of our local experts as part of our Affordable Housing Task Force specifically recommended $30M/year for three years be committed to the Barnes Fund. The good news is that the budget we just approved for FY24—the first budget I’ll work with as mayor—fulfills that recommendation of the three year period of investment at that level, and I’m proud that work I was a part of on Council ensured it was possible for the two previous years.

Our housing division at Planning is underway with a unified study, and I hope to review that before we commit to a specific funding level for the Barnes fund. But Barnes is not the only effective tool. We’ve seen very quick successes with our payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) pilot, focused on mixed-income development. And almost every recommendation of the Affordable Housing Task Force report is now in progress. We will need every tool in our affordable housing toolkit, and I plan to make consistent investments across the entire term to ensure that we’re closing the gap on affordable housing needs and the supply we have. A huge part of that will also be delivering on a transit system, which is fundamentally important to affordable housing strategies.

Alice Rolli: $30 million may create several hundred units of affordable housing – a bandaid remedy for a much larger, structural, issue – which will require much broader thinking about our permitting process, our zoning and codes, and turning our economic development tools to the issue of extending the supply of affordable housing.

As Mayor, Alice Rolli is committed to building revenue streams for the city that help match the cost of growth at the site of growth and assist in recognizing that there is a cost to every aspect of operating our city services.

Based on 2019 valuation data, some 12% of our county’s land value isn’t taxed. Just as government and nonprofits pay for electricity and water, there is an opportunity to create a schedule of voluntary service PILOTs to encourage alignment of the costs and the needs of the city with those who operate within the city. Some of those needs include supporting police and ambulance services to come when you call 911 and maintenance of roads to support employees and visitors alike. To be clear, there are some agreements in place with large non-profits, but these ought to be evaluated on a more frequent and transparent basis and also extended to other entities to ensure that we make available voluntary service PILOTs to ensure we are all contributing to supporting the needs of the city.

Seeking a voluntary 10% rate (or a 90% discount) would yield, conservatively, $40mm/ year in revenues – and could help contribute to the costs of operating the city such that all priorities, including expanded funding for the Barnes fund, could be met. 

Vivian Wilhoite: I believe we should have at least $75M in the Barnes fund for my second year as Mayor. We fund it when we make it a priority. It’s time we listen to the experts who know the issues of affordable housing. 

Matt Wiltshire: I believe that having a strong Barnes Fund is a critical component of an overall affordable housing strategy for Nashville. I helped create the Barnes Fund when I worked in the Mayor’s Office. And then we increased the funding for the Barnes Fund as a part of Under One Roof, the ambitious affordable housing plan I helped launch in the Mayor’s Office and then moved to MDHA to implement. However, it is obvious that we must do more. I’ve pledged to increase and create sustainable, demand-based funding for the Barnes Fund out of Metro’s General Fund. 

Jeff Yarbro: While I would certainly aim to match and exceed this year’s budget allocation, the financing strategy for housing affordability should not be decided year to year. The next Mayor and Council needs to make a long-term funding commitment to the Barnes fund, as well as to dedicate certain revenue sources to housing affordability. For example, I advanced legislation in the legislature that would direct all taxes collected from short term rentals to affordable housing. Presently, one cent of our hotel tax collections go toward the general fund but could be directed to affordable housing. Our affordable housing task force identified other potential revenue streams as well, and the next Mayor should pursue those aggressively to ensure that there is more stable long-term funding that will both improve our ability to attract private sector financing and allow nonprofit partners to establish more ambitious, innovative, and longer-term solutions. With dedicated revenue sources and responsible management of Metro’s outstanding financial obligations, we could pursue issuing bonds to account both for the intensive capital needs related to developing affordable housing and the urgency of acting before the problem becomes even worse. Finally, it is critical that the city constantly be looking to obtain more value for each dollar invested in housing. In addition to drawing in resources from traditional state and federal government programs to support affordable housing, we should aim to bring more philanthropic and private sector dollars into a citywide strategy on housing and use the expertise of private, nonprofit sector experts to ensure more rapid, efficient, and ambitious efforts to preserve and create new housing people can actually afford. 

Between state preemption, for-profit development and an out-of-date zoning code, one of the biggest obstacles facing the development of affordable housing is finding land to put it on. What will you do to ensure that metro-owned land is used to develop affordable housing, and make it easier for non-profits looking to build affordable housing to acquire land? 

Heidi Campbell: Nashville has an affordable housing deficit. The pandemic, record-low interest rates, and an influx of new residents have driven prices even further out of reach for many Nashvillians. The lack of affordable housing has priced people out of the market and led to a sharp increase in homelessness. Housing advocates estimate 20,000 people in our city are currently without permanent shelter. As this problem worsens, one of our biggest challenges will be working with a state government that has eliminated our ability to require affordable housing as part of new developments. We must increase the supply of affordable housing by expanding on existing public and private partnerships, such as the Barnes Housing Trust Fund. My administration’s plan to solve this crisis has three parts: identifying viable land, development, and management. By targeting underutilized metro parcels, incentivizing private developers, and forming relationships with community organizations, we can create a powerful, permanent solution to our affordable housing crisis.

Jim Gingrich: Metro just finished taking inventory of our public land holdings. Now that we know what we own, any land owned by Metro must be evaluated to decide the best and most effective use of that land. In some cases, that could be for affordable housing. As mayor, we will develop a robust strategic plan for land holding with a number of objectives in mind, e.g., ensuring our city government is optimizing its office use post pandemic as well as catalyze public/private partnerships around affordable housing.

Both nonprofits and for profit developers would benefit from access to transitionary capital to ease purchase of existing affordable housing as well as new land. Nashville’s catalyst fund is a start, but needs to be expanded and we need to cut red tape.

Sharon Hurt: We need to work with developers to make sure affordable and attainable housing gets put on all the government owned land in Bordeaux and now the East Bank. As Mayor I will streamline the permits process for affordable housing so developers who want to develop affordable housing can do so without waiting months to start building. I will provide tax incentives for affordable units so developers are further incentivized to build. And I will form partnerships with developers who care about the people instead of only the profit.

Again, I have lived experience with the nonprofit side of this. I’ve felt the difficulty of gaining Metro resources when I was building affordable housing through JUMP. It felt like all the money went to the larger nonprofits and nothing was leftover for nonprofits like mine. As Mayor I would allocate a higher share of affordable housing money to grassroots nonprofits who are close to the community.

Freddie O’Connell: First, as a Council member, I’ve worked with colleagues to ensure that Metro’s Public Property and Metro Planning’s housing division have a complete inventory of public property so we can assess what is usable for development of affordable housing, whether directly or when paired with nearby lots that would make otherwise unbuildable sites buildable. I’ve specifically asked for a new data point for that inventory—whether general obligation bonds were used to acquire the land, which can limit potential development options.

As a Metro Council member, I’ve worked on projects in recent years that faced preventable delays due to things in Metro’s control—like water line connections—and my proposed Office of Housing and a Director of Development Services in the mayor’s office would work to create project pathways with clear timelines that reduce red tape. It would help nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and developers looking to make a difference in this space navigate the complexities of developing property and accessing assistance. So that’s step one – make it easier for groups who are chomping at the bit to help.

Meanwhile, we’ve used two tranches of $25m each to build permanent supportive housing on public land and a new mixed-income community at Randee Rogers Apartments, where Metro partnered with MDHA (our local housing authority). We should continue exploring ways for Metro to partner with MDHA on everything from infrastructure to acceleration of their Envision mixed-income program.

We also need to look beyond public land to land that organizations with limited capacity are trying to develop as affordable housing. This is where the catalyst fund, community land trust, and infrastructure coordination can all come together to ensure that we’re making the best use of any land in the city where affordable housing can be built by people who want to build it and that we’re maximizing all those cases.

Meanwhile, we’ve built great new tools like the PILOT mentioned above that should enhance incentives for the private sector to be fully engaged in opportunities on privately owned land that will generally support market rate housing. 

Alice Rolli: We cannot make more land or time and it is clear to Alice Rolli that our city’s current approach to thinking of itself as a collection of departments holding narrow views on the highest and best use of city assets isn’t working for our citizens. Take, for example, the way that the separation of Planning, Codes, and Public Works from any type of “Chief Revenue Office” for the city creates situations where siloed thinking has capped the ability for very high-revenue generating buildings to be built on some of our commercial corridors (in places where there is no opposition to their construction).

For the Rolli Administration to create such alignment to better utilize our city’s land will likely take changes to the Metro Charter. With the catalyst of halving the council before us, now is the time to rethink every aspect of how we work as a city for our citizens. Every time we create a process that is a “management by exception” we contribute to higher costs of operating government and higher costs of any aspect of business that rely on government (such as permitting and building approvals).

Similarly, land controlled by schools frequently has large swaths suitable for building affordable housing for teachers or first responders – but siloed thinking means the land isn’t “on the table” in discussions about the highest and best uses for the city. An illustrative example is developable land for homes adjacent to Stanford Elementary Montessori school in Donelson. A longtime school teacher lives just across the street and works at Stanford Elementary. Extending that model – but today using schools’ land to build affordable housing with a preference for school teachers – would help attract and retain talent, and contribute to more affordable housing.

Finally, where changes in behavior have created shifts in occupancy of both retail and commercial space, we should look at opportunities to rezone properties for housing and determine what economic incentives may be in order to re-purpose underutilized spaces that could be converted to affordable housing by assisting in completing the capital stack necessary to convert traditional office or retail space into housing.

Alice Rolli’s administration will bring such commonsense thinking to serve our citizens. 

Vivian Wilhoite: We currently have over 200 vacant parcels of land owned by Metro, and there are a number of vacant buildings, like schools, that are not being used. As the Assessor of Property, I already know where this land is located, and we need to further identify which parcels are buildable. From there, we need to engage with both the private and nonprofit sectors to enter contracts whereby the land is leased to developers to build affordable housing for our city. 

Matt Wiltshire: As Mayor I will develop a process by which the sale of any city owned land is first assessed for the feasibility of it being developed into affordable housing. Further, I will explore innovative solutions, like the city of Austin is doing, which recently approved bonding whereby the city is able to acquire new land for the purpose of building affordable housing. 

Jeff Yarbro: Publicly owned land is one of the most significant resources at the city’s disposal in the effort to build a more affordable city. And Metro must do much more to leverage this land in the development and building of workforce and affordable housing in the coming years. We need to expand the development capacity and expertise of MDHA to ensure we establish and execute a responsible, aggressive strategy of acquiring, maintaining, and developing public land in a manner that supports housing affordability. I also plan to establish a Deputy Mayor position with primary responsibility for coordinating the longer-term infrastructure, development, and housing needs of the city to ensure effective coordination throughout Metro government, streamlined processes for permitting and inspections of new buildings, and more effective partnerships with non-governmental partners. The city should have not only a process for regularly auditing Metro-owned land but also a strategic plan for how those assets can best support the city’s housing affordability needs. This strategy should extend beyond metro owned properties that are appropriate for new development to include underutilized public properties located within Davidson County. Where Metro has obtained properties unsuitable for Metro development or other strategic needs, the city should look for ways to activate these properties and others maintained by the community land trust. Finally, in the process of developing affordable housing on Metro owned land, the city should also be seeking to spur the development of affordable housing on nearby privately-owned land, through updated zoning, strategic partnerships with private sector and nonprofit partners, and supporting infrastructure investments. 

Nashville has a wealth of nonprofits and experts who have been working for decades to develop affordable housing. As mayor, who will you tap to put together a plan for creating affordable housing units?

Heidi Campbell: I would like to work with Angie Hubbard, from the housing division of Metro Planning. My administration will also work with Metro’s Affordable Housing Task Force, THDA, MDHA, and the Homeless Impact Division to expand revenue streams and craft policy. We will review zoning and regulatory laws, reduce barriers to developing and preserving affordable housing, and investigate expanding the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program.

Jim Gingrich: Tackling this problem will require collaboration between affordable housing leaders, local developers, community members, nonprofit leaders, fellow lawmakers, private capital lenders, and other stakeholders. But, we don’t need to endlessly plan and study. We’ve done multiple studies on affordable housing and we have many plans to build it. But these studies and plans are just sitting on shelves, collecting dust, and waiting to be put into action. What we do need is the right people at the table to help the city understand how to cut red tape and facilitate what we all know needs to happen.

It’s time to get stuff done in our city. That’s where I came from, and what I will do as mayor.

Sharon Hurt: Eddie Latimer, Alicia Haddock, and Marshall Crawford. I first worked with Eddie when I began working at JUMP 25 years ago. I have worked with Alicia since she served as the ED of the McGruder Center. She has since went on to the Housing Fund and is already heavily involved with Metro government boards and committees so she understands how government processes work. She, and other grassroots leaders, actually helped design my housing policy platform. Marshall Crawford is also at the Housing Fund and does great work. I would rely on other community leaders and experts such as these to staff the rest of my administration.

Freddie O’Connell: Metro already tapped Angie Hubbard, who leads the housing division at Metro Planning and is already underway with a unified study. That study should be the basis of future affordable housing work, and the next mayor should not need a separate study or task force.

Alice Rolli: Elections are about listening to voters, not about promising jobs or positions to certain individuals or groups. Alice Rolli brings a truly unique experience in this regard – both in her experience in leading and staffing high-growth companies as well as her state and federal government experience with de novo administrations – specifically 2002 as Sen. Lamar Alexander’s first full time employee tasked with setting up, along with Tom Ingram, the Senator’s 7 offices in DC and in Tennessee as well as working on the Top-to-Bottom Review team for Gov. Bill Haslam shortly after his election. In the private sector and government, the process of identifying talent is two-fold and we are confident that the Rolli Administration will be able both to retain high caliber talent within the administration as well as attract a new pool of talent interested in urgently tackling the city’s challenges from affordable housing, to education, fiscal management, and crime. In this work Alice will seek the counsel of the city’s long-time leaders and balance that with identifying individuals committed to achieving results before defending the status quo. Through backwards mapping from the goal to solutions and identifying pragmatic city-funded steps and aspirational federal and state funded steps (or legislative changes) we will, together, solve problems and get results for our citizens. 

Vivian Wilhoite: I would go to those organizations that are already doing the work and a diverse group of developers who have expressed a desire to build affordable housing.  For the organizations, at the table would be, but not limited to, Affordable Housing Resources, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, NOAH, The Housing Fund and Urban Housing Solutions. 

Matt Wiltshire: The city has adopted a number of affordable housing plans over the past decade, which include many smart, actionable recommendations. It is time for the city to get to work implementing those plans. 

Earlier this month several of the many great nonprofit affordable housing developers came together to form the Alliance for an Affordable Nashville. As Mayor I will work with this group to identify the most efficient and effective strategies to quickly increase the supply of attainable housing. I also will work with RED Academy and others to develop the next generation of affordable housing developers in order to increase the diversity of developers in our community. 

I also will work with MDHA to accelerate the implementation of that organization’s Envision program to transform areas of concentrated poverty into thriving mixed-income neighborhoods through Metro funding and by aggressively pursuing public-private partnerships. I’ll pursue public-private partnerships with churches, nonprofit landholders, large institutions, and even schools to construct affordable housing on underutilized land. This proven model has worked for Nashville in the past. 

The web of nonprofits and programs can be difficult to parse for many Nashvillians. As Mayor I’ll hire housing navigators who can assist Nasvillians in taking advantage of the nonprofit and public resources, such as The Housing Resilience Fund, and the senior property tax freeze.

Jeff Yarbro: My plan as mayor is to get virtually every one of these nonprofits and experts in our city engaged in the development of affordable housing in one way or another. We need a citywide strategy to tackle housing affordability – one that includes those experts and nonprofits who have been doing the work but also brings in private sector developers, large employers, and other community stakeholders. The scope and scale of the problem is far bigger than one individual or organization. The inadequacy of housing supply, the difficulty of building affordable and workforce housing in a growing city, and the overall decline of affordability across the MSA together represent our largest strategic challenge, and we need to step up in a big way. Metro’s present efforts need to be improved by far greater utilization of those with experience bringing significant projects to fruition in Nashville, greater reliance on the non-profits with expertise in managing the complex funding streams and challenges of affordable housing, the private sector builders focused on building affordable and attainable housing, as well as expertise from the financial sector. An adequate response demands developing new capacity within Metro government and new capacity in the private and non-profit sectors too. The recent creation of an Alliance for an Affordable Nashville by ten Nashville housing non-profits reflects the need to adjust both our ambitions and organizational models to meet the crisis. While we are fortunate to be able to rely on many local experts and non-profits, we should also tap into expertise, ideas, and models developed elsewhere. One interesting model, for example, can be found in 3CDC, which has coordinated significant work in Cincinnati’s central and Over-the-Rhine districts through bringing private and non-profit resources online to achieve the city’s strategic housing needs. For Nashville to truly meet the challenge of the moment, the next Mayor must do far more than develop a handful of policies and strategies for Metro government to execute and manage. Instead, the Mayor must lead the city more broadly by forging a shared strategy that can focus and align the efforts of all of our city’s key stakeholders toward a shared end.

Disclosure: Matt Wiltshire has donated to the Nashville Banner. Financial supporters play no role in the Banner’s journalism.

Connor Daryani is a staff reporter. He has previously freelanced for the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post covering the state legislature and Metro.