Mayor 2018: Candidates Are Hazy On Solutions To Nashville's Affordable Housing Crisis | Nashville Public Radio

Mayor 2018: Candidates Are Hazy On Solutions To Nashville's Affordable Housing Crisis

May 21, 2018

Nashville is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. The city estimates it needs 31,000 more units over the next seven years, a number it's unlikely to keep pace with. Nashville's next mayor will have no choice but to face this dramatic housing shortage. But most candidates don't have concrete solutions. 

We asked each of them:

What would you do to create affordable housing in Nashville that isn’t being done now?

Several candidates say there's little they can or should do to fix the problem. Mayor David Briley thinks more of the same is the city's best option.  

"There's not a whole lot of new things we can do considering state law," Briley tells WPLN." So it's really just expanding the things we're currently doing."

More: WPLN's Complete Coverage Of The 2018 Mayoral Election

One candidate, Albert Hacker, who works for a medical devices company, takes a more defeatist, free market attitude toward the issue.

"Unless you're going to somehow reduce the infrastructure costs of development itself — the bricks and sticks, drywall cost, concrete — unless you're going to somehow reduce code regulations that are ever increasing that makes development more and more costly," Hacker says. "There's not going to be a real impact outside of just saying that you care as a politician."

Conservative commentator Ralph Bristol says it really shouldn't be the mayor's job to come up with solutions to the city's affordable housing shortage.

"The city has some responsibilities it must meet, both morally and legally, and some responsibilities that it doesn’t necessarily need to meet, either morally or legally," Bristol says. "And affordability of individual needs falls into the latter category."

A few candidates have more fully formed ideas. State Rep. Harold Love says that without a dedicated funding source for affordable housing the city is unlikely to make any meaningful progress. He suggests the city look to tourist and entertainment corridors like Broadway and implement a tax on food and drink purchases.

Candidate and councilwoman Erica Gilmore adds that the city also needs to tap local organizations who are already experts in the field.

"I definitely know there are ideas out there, we just need to work more with our community partners," she says.  

On a smaller scale, the city already does this with its community grants through the Barnes Housing Trust Fund.

Some candidates, like conservative pundit Carol Swain says Nashville should look to neglected corners of the city to build affordable housing. Others say we need more incentives for developers to incorporate it into existing projects.  

What would you do to create affordable housing in Nashville that isn’t being done now?

Carlin Alford: "I think that we're letting the private realtors, I think that we're letting commercial real estate dictate where affordable housing would be. And when you designate certain areas of the city for affordable housing, then you can start to address how many units go up? Who are the people that are eligible for it? What parts of town are they coming from?"

David Briley: "There's not a whole lot of new things we can do considering state law. So it's really just expanding the things we're currently doing… So we've got to find some ways to provide more supply in our in our town. And we do that through density some places and through making targeted investments as a city to provide affordability."

Ralph Bristol: "The city has some responsibilities it must meet, both morally and legally, and some responsibilities that it doesn’t necessarily need to meet, either morally or legally. And affordability of individual needs falls into the latter category."

Jeff Obafemi Carr: "We're seeing that most of Nashville, the people who are dealing with affordable housing, are cost burdened. Over 30 percent of their money is going toward rent. That's insane. So I think if we create what I would perceive to be an interdisciplinary or even a transdisciplinary plan, you married the new transit referendum, the new transit plan, with affordable housing that takes into account the wages that people are getting now and they become income based affordable housing projects."

Erica Gilmore: "The mayor's office needs to work along with those nonprofit experts in that area, and we need to work on the plan, and play it out a couple of years, and have it in phases. So I definitely know there are ideas out there. We just need to work more with our community partners."

Albert Hacker: "Unless you're going to somehow reduce the infrastructure costs of development itself — the bricks and sticks, drywall cost, concrete — unless you're going to somehow reduce code regulations that are ever increasing that makes development more and more costly, there's not going to be a real impact outside of just saying that you care as a politician."

David Hiland: "Somewhere down the line, we need to have some kind of incentives to get people back into the construction field to produce more workers."

Julia Clark-Johnson: "What I would do for affordable housing is make certain first [that] the homeowners are secure in the areas in which they live. They're not made to feel uncomfortable by a mansion going up, in their taxes going up. … And so I would sit back and listen to the constituency on how they feel and what moves they want me to make, because as the mayor, I'm actually a public servant."

Harold Love: "My suggestion would be that we utilize that development district right there in the Broadway area, look at increasing maybe a tax on goods purchased including beverages purchased and food purchased in that entertainment district right there to provide a dedicated fund to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund and let it generate income."

Jeff Napier: "Create a what I call a filter and purge system. What this means is everybody knows…that affordable housing is very widely misused or abused even. You've got somebody living there, they're reporting they can only pay like say a hundred dollars a month for rent. But they've got let's say a quarter million dollars' worth of cars sitting out in the parking lot...My idea would be to seek these people out, intertwine or interconnect TDOT with the housing agency that controls that and do an audit...And if they fall into the category of abuse, out they go. That makes housing available for people that legitimately need it."

Jon Sewell: "Oh my goodness. I don't think we could do much with affordable housing, that's the problem… But there is some way — and maybe inclusionary zoning, they could walk a fine line there — but there's some way to incentivize and subsidize putting affordable housing in buildings that have multiple units."

Carol Swain: "I believe that we can build affordable housing in other parts of town that are currently neglected…And I think using Section 8 to take low income people and place them into more prosperous neighborhoods that has not worked well. I think that low income housing can be built in neighborhoods."