The word affordable gets thrown around a lot in advertising and in media. It suggests that anyone can afford the suggested item. Take for instance rentals in the area advertised as “affordable” that require you to be making three times the suggested rent. So with an apartment renting for $1,200 per month, you’d need to be making $3,600 per month. Most jobs downtown that don’t require a degree are service workers making maybe $11.00 per hour on a 40 hours week that’s $440 gross. Monthly that’s only $1,760. So basically Nashville is saying yes come work here, but forget living here it’s out of your league. The outlying areas are just as bad. Apartments in Hermitage and Madison cost upwards of $950 per month.
With Nashville's massive growth, the need for more and more affordable housing has increased. What was once an affordable place to live has grown into a place you don’t even want to look at to live unless you make a six figure income. This leaves out those working, but not making a living wage and our friends experiencing homelessness. On March 26, Mayor David Briley announced an aggressive move to take care of this affordable housing problem that has only gotten worse over time. Mayor Briley announced a $750 million dollar project that will span over the next 10 years to bring together these citizens that are in desperate need for housing that is affordable and also to renovate MDHA properties in need of improvements. Now i’m not a politician and those who know me know I’m not really into politics, but this certainly has my attention. So many times Nashville has built one affordable housing complex just to need four more. The wait lists fill up with incredible speed leaving more and more out of reach of decent housing. Under this aggressive move, Nashville will commit $500 million from public funds and $250 million in private sector funds. This is by far the most aggressive move I’ve ever seen to get a handle on the homeless and low income issues that only continue to rise everyday. In many cities and states across the U.S. I have yet to see the commitment to get citizens the housing they so rightly deserve at a price they can afford.
Judith Tackett, director of the Metro Homeless Impact Division stated, “Adding low-income affordable housing units to Nashville’s housing stock is a huge win for our community! Now we must work to improve our coordinated entry system to help our most vulnerable neighbors access housing. We can end homelessness for a lot of people.” With such a community effort in place we can do this and do this right.
Home Street Home (HSH) Ministries stated, “It’s a move in the right direction but it doesn’t do nearly enough to address the immediate crisis that the homeless community faces. A 10 year plan is good but, when there are 100+ dying on the streets each year, we need something to happen now.”
The non-profits will have to continue their mission and private donations will still be needed until this plan is completed. My hope is that Nashville will be the role model for other states to follow in this aggressive approach instead of wishing the problem away or creating laws to make it harder on homeless people. Yes there will be those who think trees are way more important than human suffering but eventually I feel that this plan will provide housing and give dignity to so many low income families and homeless people. If we all do our part this can be a reality. Yes there will be those who will make it difficult, but we can get past those to make it a reality. It would be great to call Nashville the “affordable city” instead of the “it city.”