The cost of living in East Nashville continues to rise, and residents say they want more affordable housing. Proposed legislation hopes to make that happen, but Metro Councilmembers must take extra steps to ensure it doesn’t just give more property to short-term rentals.
The proposal, which centers on 2.3 acres on Lischey Avenue in the Highland Heights neighborhood, is currently zoned for single-family residences only. District 5 Councilman Scott Davis and a local realtor are currently trying to rezone the plot’s density in order to build 46 affordable housing units.
“We need good quality, affordable housing in our neighborhoods,” Davis told News 2.
Realtor Jessica Williams founded Invest Smart Today and has been working on this specific project for two-and-a-half years.
“I wanted to be able to create an affordable, smart growth community where people of all backgrounds, religions, races, could have the opportunity to buy into different housing types,” Williams said.
The bill had its second reading at the Metro Council meeting Tuesday night.
Dozens of residents — some from the neighborhood, and others there for support — showed up to support the bill in the scheduled time for public comment. On the other hand, some residents were there to express their concerns about the project.
The land sits five feet from Danny Pratt’s house. He told News 2 he bought the home with his fiance and parents because it was close enough to downtown but still quaint and “woodsy.”
“I’m really worried about the traffic, the influx of people, and I also have just natural flooding on my land already that comes directly from the property behind me,” Pratt told News 2.
The Metro Planning Commission originally reviewed the bill and disapproved since it didn’t have an alley or a street. According to Pratt, if the re-zoning measure passes, that alley would have to fit in that five feet of space behind his home.
Critics also raise the question: How can Council ensure it’s affordable housing and not just more short-term rentals? Some Councilmembers expressed similar concerns Tuesday night, saying that rezoning the lot would not protect the plan to turn it into affordable housing.
Fabien Bedne, councilman and chair of Metro’s Planning and Zoning Commission, told News 2 he was proud to see that people wanted more affordable housing but thinks residents may have been misled.
“The one thing that I know for certain is that the state pre-empted our ability to place conditions on zoning that bring affordable housing,” Bedne said. “In my experience, we really don’t have much to do to make — to force — affordability on our zoning.”
Council challenged Davis to figure it out.
“It’s called a regulatory SP, and I may have the terms mixed up a little bit, but basically, I’m going to amend the bill to where it restricts those uses, and also we can put a deed restriction on the property,” Davis told News 2.
According to Williams, the people who spoke in favor of the bill Tuesday are “police officers, teachers, Metro employees, teachers — these people go to work every single day wanting to earn a living, and I am in real estate. I have been having to move people to Clarksville,” she said. “We’ve got to be able to help people who started this community.”
Pratt agrees Nashville needs more affordable housing but he said this isn’t the right plan for it.
“Affordable housing is an issue in Nashville and it’s really important to me, but I don’t think that this specific proposal is actually going to to help those people,” he said.
Several council members said they will ultimately vote against the bill on third reading unless Davis can guarantee affordability.