During a State of Metro address at the $585 million Music City Center in which he expressed a desire to see Nashville’s “rising tide” raise all ships, Mayor Karl Dean did acknowledge that some ships in the city have been taking on water.
As Nashville has grown, he noted, rental vacancy rates have gone down and rent prices have soared. Household incomes have lagged behind the cost of housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers a family who pays more than 30 percent of their income for housing to be “cost burdened,” and in recent years more and more Nashvillians have fallen under that label.
In other words, the “It City” has been leaving some of its citizens behind. Particularly when it comes to affordable housing.
“Nashville has options for those who can’t afford a home on their own, but the options are limited,” Dean said in last week’s speech. “Waiting lists are long. And for the most part, we have always relied on the nonprofit community and the federal government to address this need in our city. It’s time to do more.”
Toward that end, Dean announced his administration’s intention to establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that “will allow Metro government to take a more active role in creating affordable housing, encouraging rehabilitation of existing homes, maintaining affordability and building mixed-use, mixed-income developments.”
The trust fund will be named the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, in honor of the Rev. Bill Barnes, a founding pastor of Edgehill Methodist Church and one of the city’s most prominent voices for affordable housing for years.
The mayor’s office expects to file a bill with the Metro Council soon that will establish the fund as well as a Metro Housing Fund Commission. However, as of this writing, three days after the announcement, key details about the program — such as how many members would sit on the new mayor-appointed commission — were still being finalized, the mayor’s office said.
The commission will award grants to nonprofit housing developers, to fund “renovation or construction of affordable homeownership and rental opportunities, project-based rental assistance, and other supportive efforts to encourage affordability” according to the Dean administration.
Officials expect the fund to add some 300 affordable housing units each year. The program will be aimed at households earning less than 60 percent of the Housing and Urban Development area median income, which is currently $26,800 for a single person household, according to information about the program provided by the mayor’s office.
Existing grants will be used to establish the fund with an initial $3 million, and the mayor’s office said “the fund is expected to be ongoing.” However, the administration was not yet prepared to provide information on how the program would be supported after the initial funds run out.