Building a More Equitable Nashville
A Plan to End Our Affordable Housing Crisis

Nashville is a city people want to live in. Every week our region gains hundreds of new residents as our rapid growth continues. Yet long-time residents are struggling to keep up. Nashville’s cost-of-living has skyrocketed along with our growth, and our city’s housing market is ground zero. According to a recent study conducted by 24/7 Wall St., the Nashville metropolitan area is ranked 5th in the country for cities most likely to see a housing crisis, with median home prices increasing 54.9% since before the Great Recession - $154,900 in 2007 compared to $240,000 today. This is untenable. With a projected shortage of 31,000 units of middle and low-income housing by 2025, we’re already in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. But this isn’t Nashville’s future. By coming together, we can ensure that Nashville remains an affordable city where working families are able to prosper and thrive. 

Fund Affordable Housing
First, we need to adequately invest in the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing. Right now, the annual investment is $10 million but this amount is contingent on the political whims of city leaders. As mayor, I would look to establish a dedicated revenue stream for the Barnes Fund to increase annual investment to $50 million within five years. This would stabilize our affordable housing market, as non-profits and private developers alike would be able to trust that the necessary funds and equity will be there when they decide to build.

Next, when corporations decide to move to Nashville, they should be investing in the community, and so we need to negotiate investments in affordable and workforce housing. While it’s a good thing that companies want to move here, we must be cognizant of the effects they may have on the market, both good and bad. These type of front-end investments will serve to create goodwill between the company and residents and help mitigate a potential increase in cost-of-living.

Ensure Housing Equity
One prominent issue that too many residents face is housing discrimination due to low-incomes and/or Section 8 vouchers. Last year alone, 39% of newly issued voucher holders in Nashville were unable to use those vouchers to find housing. This is a grave equity issue which can have devastating effects for families who struggle to make ends meet. As mayor, I would collaborate with the Metro Council to pass Source of Income protections to increase access to housing for lower-income families and recipients of Section 8 voucher holders. I would also work to incentivize the acceptance of Section 8 vouchers to give property owners peace of mind and optimize our current housing stock. No one should be turned away because they possess a housing voucher, and a Clemmons administration will work to end all forms of housing discrimination in Nashville. 

Establish a Land Bank Within Metro Government and Increase Competition
A common issue for both non-profit and private developers who focus on affordable housing is that acquiring land is often the most expensive part of a project. When competing with luxury apartment developers in the open market, it becomes financially infeasible to build large-scale affordable housing. 

To remedy this issue, my administration will establish a land bank within the Department of Finance to increase transparency in the use and sale of Metro property. The land bank will clean the title of properties and determine the best use for any land deemed surplus, with priority given to the development of affordable housing. This way, organizations who want to build affordable housing will have a transparent catalog of properties available to them, taxpayers will receive a solid return on investment on property sales, and Metro will be able to facilitate the rapid need for the development of affordable housing units.

Furthermore, my administration would develop the current Community Land Trust to oversee development projects. This would allow for increased transparency and the highest possible return on investment, as the Community Land Trust would issue RFPs to increase competitiveness and control costs. 

Improve Services Within the Mayor’s Office
An essential aspect of solving our affordable housing crisis has to be improving services with the mayor’s office. We need to make it easier for residents to gather information, find available units, and understand their rights. 

First, my administration would establish an Office of Affordability within the mayor’s office. This department would serve as a one-stop housing shop with a centralized reporting system for vacancies where individuals facing displacement can find the most accurate details about housing available within Davidson County. This database would provide housing types, qualifications, and pricing, within an easy to use service to give users relevant and timely information about their options. The Office of Affordability would also work with  Metro Planning, Codes, MDHA, and other metro and state agencies, as well as the private and non-profit sectors, to monitor the development and diversity of housing stock across Nashville. The office would also be empowered to expedite services at Metro Planning and Codes for those developing affordable housing. We need to bifurcate the permit desk for commercial and residential planning to eliminate time as a barrier.

Finally, I would create an Affordable Housing Task Force composed of individuals from the non-profit, faith-based, private development, and banking communities who are committed to financing and building affordable housing in Nashville. The group will be charged with crafting and implementing an overall strategy to end the affordable housing crisis. The task force will publish an annual “State of Affordable Housing Report” to provide a scorecard on the city’s progress and hold Metro government accountable.

Increase Affordability and End Homelessness
Affordable housing cannot be evaluated as a stand-alone issue separate and apart from wages, high-quality public schools, transportation options, health care, and other issues. With this recognition, the affordability challenges facing our families must be addressed holistically, and any strategic plan to move our city forward in a more equitable manner must reflect this fact. For example, increasing housing density along major thoroughfares is key in order to build a sustainable transit system, which in turn will relieve pressure on families by doing away with the need for a car. Furthermore, fully funding MNPS is an essential step forward to ensure that students are receiving the education they need to break down systemic barriers and earn higher wages.

Ultimately, our goal as a city should be to increase affordability and services so that we can finally end homelessness. Stable housing and access to healthcare, education, and wraparound services can help prevent individuals and families from living on the streets, in cars, or moving from shelter to shelter. Any plan for ending homelessness much involve faith-based groups and community organizations, such as OpenTable Nashville, who are on the ground every day working to improve the quality of life of residents. 

This is a working document based on feedback from thousands of residents across Nashville. Have an idea? Contact us at info@johnrayclemmons.com.