WKRN News 2

Could rent control make Nashville more affordable?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Rent prices continue to rise across Middle Tennessee, and for many they’ve simply become unaffordable. 

Year-over-year, rents are up more than 21% according to Apartmentlist.com.

Other big markets like California, New York and Washington, D.C. have come up with rent control, limiting these spikes. Some locals believe it’s a strategy Nashville should consider. 

“What’s so nice about Nashville is how accessible it is,” Nashville renter and teacher Elsie Coen said. “And the rent is just getting so expensive closer to downtown that I feel like teachers are going to have to start moving further and further out.” 

It’s a concern shared by much of the working class. 

“Renewal rents in Nashville are going up by double-digit percentages, and that’s huge. But a lot of people’s paychecks are not going up by double-digit percentage points,” said Joel Sanders, CEO of Apartment Insiders.

Markets including New York, California, and D.C. have used rent control to cap how much landlords can increase a tenant’s rent each year.  

“I think especially having seen the growth in the city in the two years I’ve been here, it’s clear that there’s so many buildings coming up and so much rent being increased that I think it’s probably about time that they start doing some protection laws like that,” Coen said. 

Although appealing, Sanders said there are certain drawbacks to imposing rent controls.  

“Real estate’s all about supply and demand. And if you take out the incentive for developers to come in and build new supply, that really actually just makes the rents go up even higher,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said he believes rent control may even play a part in why developers are leaving the coast and heading to Tennessee.  

“Nashville has the largest amount of apartments under construction in the United States as a percentage of current supply. It’s attracting the developers and it’s continuing to attract the developers and I think that maybe good in the long run for moderating some of these rent increases in Nashville,” he said. 

Matt Olson helps manage rental properties in his role as Vice President of Freeman-Webb. He said his properties have been able to avoid major rent spikes because they were built on property bought in Nashville long ago. It’s an advantage many new builders simply aren’t able to find today.  

He also believes rent controls could turn developers away and instead believes local leaders need to offer incentives to buyers building affordable housing. 

“If a developer’s willing to commit to keeping so many units affordable, or workforce housing at a workforce housing rate, and increase the density that they’re allowed to build, is a way to incentivize developers to provide that supply of that product at that price point that they wouldn’t have otherwise with the market,” Olson said. 

News 2 reached out to District 22 Councilmember Gloria Hausser who serves on Metro’s Affordable Housing Committee. She said to her knowledge, rent control had never been proposed in Nashville. When looking for solutions, she said it’s important to find solutions that satisfy both renters and landlords.  

“Landlords are business people just like the person at the corner store, that this is their business, and they’re in business to do more than cover their cost but also make a living. So we’re all in this together, there’s not a good guy and a bad guy and we’re all in this together,” Hausser said. 

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Whatever the solution might be, locals say a rent cool down is needed soon.  

“This is the kind of city where since it’s kind of up and coming as a city, part of the appeal is that it’s more affordable and it’s not like a big east coast city in terms of prices and that’s kind of changing and I think it’s making the city a little less appealing to newcomers and also people who have lived here for awhile,” Coen said.