The days of a $600 lease near downtown Nashville are over, and millennials are pitching their ideas for how to change that.
On Aug. 14 at Montgomery Bell Academy, four groups presented their ideas to address what has been called an affordable housing crisis in Nashville. It was the second year for the Pitch Nashville event, put on by the Nashville Junior Chamber. Last year’s event addressed traffic.
The winner, realtor, developer and Nashville native Ryan Turbeville, said the problem is too big to solve with subsidies, zoning or rent control. He proposed a prize competition that would incentivize people to come up with creative and innovative solutions for the affordable housing issue.
“The true way to get to affordable housing is to reduce the cost of building homes and the only way to do that is innovation,” he said. “Within our DNA (in Nashville) we have a creative spirit. People move here from all over the world to do things that have never been done before. We need to harness that.”
Turbeville noted that this would not be the first time that a prize competition has been used on such a large scale. Charles Lindbergh achieved the first nonstop transAtlantic flight to earn $20,000, and canned food was invented due to a prize offered by Napoleon, who needed a way for his troops’ food to last longer. More recently, the first private space flight, SpaceShipOne, was prompted by a $10 million prize.
He proposed that government-owned land be donated and zoning restrictions be relaxed for the competition. The money for the $10 million cash prize offered should be raised privately through donations by individuals in the community, he said.
Pitch Nashville was judged by Adriane Bond-Harris, director of the mayor’s office of housing, Eddie Latimer, CEO of Affordable Housing Resources, David Plazas, opinion engagement editor of The Tennessean, and James Fraser, associate professor of Community Development and Action at Vanderbilt University. As the winner of the competition, Turbeville will meet again with the judges as well as about 12 more developers, community activists, real estate agents, financial experts and attorneys in an effort to get more traction with his pitch.
The second place idea, presented by realtors Juliana Cox and Thomas Rassas, proposed transit-oriented development utilizing the Music City Star. Project Return, a nonprofit organization that assists people joining society after incarceration, suggested a scattered site model to disrupt concentration of poverty and prevent relapses into criminal behavior. The final team of realtors suggested a database that gauges perception of affordable housing in different neighborhoods of Nashville to zero in on the YIMBYs, or “Yes In My Backyard,” citizens.
Richard Exton Jr., co-organizer of the event, said a lack of affordable housing is something that has come on the city relatively quickly and seriously.
“Affordable housing is something that affects every Nashvillian and especially millennial Nashvillians — so people under the age of 35. Nashville used to be a place where you could be broke and you could come here and play your guitar on the street and you could try and make it in the music industry,” Exton said. “But it’s gotten really expensive here and so people that are coming to Nashville to try and make it and do the things that really made the city what it is, aren’t able to do that anymore.”
Exton said the Nashville Pitch event embodies the mission of the Nashville Junior Chamber.
“It’s just connecting a young person with a great idea with the people who can make it happen,” he said.
Photo: Cumberland Creative