Despite Nashville's budget shortfall, Mayor David Briley is now promising to preserve the city's only dedicated fund for affordable housing.
But just a few days ago, the Barnes Housing Trust Fund was in jeopardy. According to the proposed Metro budget, its $10 million funding was contingent on the sale of two properties: an old firehouse in Green Hills and a vacant Metro Works building off Charlotte Ave.
The decision to tie the Barnes money to the property sales caught affordable housing advocates by surprise, some of whom have come to depend on the grants.
Bettie Kirkland is the executive director of Project Return, an organization that’s received more than $270,000 from the Barnes Fund to house the formerly incarcerated. She says the move sent a clear message.
"The availability of funding translates into housing, affordable housing, for people who need it," Kirkland said. "The non-availability of funding conversely translates into an increase in homelessness. And so that's the choice that gets made through this budgeting."
The lack of certainty also halted the next round of grants, which was supposed to be awarded in the fall.
But in an about-face, the mayor's office told WPLN on Thursday that it will be funding the program in full, regardless of the property sales. Judith Byrd, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said it has agreed to "remove the contingency that connects Barnes funding to the sale of these properties."
It isn't clear, however, if the administration will be rebooting the fall round of grants, now that it has fully committed to financing the Barnes Fund.
The final budget will be voted on at the Metro Council Meeting next Tuesday.