Where Are We On Affordable Housing?

Last summer, the Metro Council passed an ordinance requiring the Planning Department to submit an inclusionary zoning law back to the Council within 6 months.  On January 14, the Planning Commission rejected the Planning Department’s proposed incentive-based affordable housing zoning changes. To comply with the 6 month deadline in the ordinance, the Planning Department filed its proposal (separated into two ordinances) with the Clerk’s office earlier this week.

According to the Council rules, however, unless a Council member signs on as a sponsor, the department’s proposals would not ever go to the Council for consideration.  I think some Council members will sign on to the Planning Department’s proposals as sponsors.  I will ask to be a co-sponsor.

Why would I sign onto a proposal that everyone spoke against at the Planning Commission?  The main reason is because I don’t want to see the momentum behind doing something about affordable housing in Nashville go to waste.  The public discussion needs to continue.

One of the things we are grappling with is that the “affordable housing” discussion is really a handful or more of interrelated issues. Unfortunately, it is hard to talk about any one issue without people who are passionate about another issue saying, “no, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong…we should focus on this instead of that.” The Planning Department’s proposal is a good example.

In my view, the current proposal focuses on trying to get more housing in the core of the city and along major traffic corridors for individuals and families in the range of 60-100% of the area’s adjusted median income. It doesn’t help people who have no home, or the typical MDHA resident. It doesn’t help preserve existing affordable housing stock from being torn down.  It doesn’t do much to slow down gentrification concerns. And, so, there is an appropriate tendency for people who are passionate about other parts of the problem, or who want to see a full set of solutions now, to want to cry foul.

We have to keep moving forward. Housing is a complex issue. We are challenged by layers of problems. We will need to find layers of solutions.  The next step is to move the public discussion forward.  That’s why I’ll sign on as a co-sponsor for the Planning Department’s proposal.  It most likely won’t pass as drafted, but the conversation must go on.

Bob Mendes

Bob Mendes represents all of Nashville as a Council-At-Large member of Nashville’s Metro Council. He is Chair of the Council’s Charter Revision Committee, a member of the Metropolitan Audit Committee, and a member of the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, Rules & Confirmations Committee, and Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee. Bob also practices business law at Waypoint Law PLLC. Bob’s complete bio is here. You can follow Bob @mendesbob.