Preserving affordable housing in Nashville

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Earlier this week, News 2 showed you how one area organization is working to combat the affordable housing crisis in Nashville, but efforts extend far beyond energy-efficient micro-homes.

It’s not always about creating more affordable housing, but protecting what we already have.

“People are going into a homeless situation very quick and part of it is the economy is growing, the population is growing, incomes are growing, but there’s a part of the community that’s not growing as fast and they’re getting priced out rapidly,” Waddell Wright said, a real estate developer and board member at Greater Nashville Realtors.

Wright said the city needs to buy up more land for affordable housing and then partner with developers, hoping to combat the problem utilizing public-private partnerships.

Wright owns an apartment building in Memphis and will be using that property to house homeless veterans in partnership with the VA and Catholic Charities. He’s looking to do something similar in Nashville.

“I’m passionate about the human side of things to whom much is given, much is required and I’ve done well in real estate development and there’s people out there that really need help and I’m in a position to do that,” Wright said.

As the cost of acquiring older complexes in Nashville has increased, it’s become increasingly hard for mission-based organizations, like Urban Housing Solutions (UHS), to help preserve the city’s existing affordable housing stock. So instead, out-of-town developers are coming in and purchasing apartment complexes for above market value, renovating them, and then renting them out for rates above what its former tenants could afford to pay.

“We’re trying to compete with those developers, but speed to market, speed to close is important, so we created this vehicle to get the closing quicker,” said Lee Blank, the Nashville market executive for Regions Bank.

That vehicle is a collaboration between Regions Bank, UHS, and four local foundations, resulting in a new $19.2 million loan agreement to enable UHS to purchase two neighboring apartment complexes, Parliament Place and Southwood Park. The effort will keep rents affordable at those two locations for the next 30 years. The goal now is to do this with other complexes.

The Memorial Foundation, the Healing Trust, the James Stephen Turner Family Foundation, and the Kharis Foundation offered portions of their endowments as collateral for the loan.

“We want the prosperity and the access to affordable housing that a prosperous community can deliver to everyone so that’s why affordable housing is so important,” Blank said.

Wright is calling on developers and investors alike to be a part of the change.

“As a developer, we have big pretty things as well that we develop but we’re also using our resources to come in and help communities that can benefit from our expertise and capital,” Wright said. “You can make a little bit less money but provide services for all of the community, not just high-end community.”

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