We worked hard to get inclusionary housing to this point in Nashville. Today the Metro Council voted 31-4 to move forward on this important affordable housing legislation.
Check it out. Habitat International published a piece on our affordable housing report highlighting different tools to provide housing for low to moderate income families.
Check out this article on affordable housing in Nashville, Tennessee.
This is a story about a report my research team created for the City of Nashville on "Equitable Development."
The recent NashvilleNext community survey revealed “affordable living” tops Nashvillians’ concerns for the future, and data suggests these fears are not unwarranted.
There are approximately 259,000 households in Nashville, and almost one third of these do not earn enough to afford the market rate housing available in our city. That means that each month, nearly a third of all households make difficult decisions between paying for housing and meeting other basic needs.
Decisive leadership and research-based policy solutions are critically needed to support equitable and inclusive development for all.
As Nashville enjoys its “It City” status, the demand for urban living has pushed housing prices up and out of reach for many low and moderate-income residents. Take the 12th South neighborhood: Between 2000 and 2010, housing costs jumped 269 percent while the black population decreased by 58 percent.
Proponents argue that gentrification is transforming these inner-city neighborhoods from unhealthy areas of concentrated poverty into diverse mixed-income neighborhoods, yet what we find are growing enclaves of concentrated affluence. This not only affects current residents in inner-city neighborhoods, who are pushed out for upscale development, it forecloses the possibility that affordable housing options will ever be available in these newly revitalized areas.
Over time, gentrification reproduces economic and racial segregation. While the neighborhood schools, transit, services, and green space might improve, they only benefit those who can afford to live there. Without concrete tools to ensure affordable housing choices throughout Nashville, the city will continue to experience unjust segregation and more households will face a staggering cost burden, displacement and exclusion.
City officials can do something
Luckily, tools do exist, and across the country many local governments are using public policy to achieve equitable development. This means incorporating affordable housing as part of a holistic approach to improve the quality of life for residents of all incomes by also stimulating economic development, increasing access to family-supporting jobs, supporting local businesses, and improving educational access.
For example, the City of Austin recently passed a $65 million bond to provide assistance to low-income renters, homebuyers, and homeowners and to support affordable housing development, neighborhood and commercial revitalization, and small business incubation.
Other cities in our region, including Charlotte and Chicago, are increasing construction of affordable housing by offering cost-offsets/incentives to developers in return for their contributions to affordable housing. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, these cities have taken real steps to make affordable housing a reality for many families.
Support equitable Nashville
Public concern for affordable housing in Nashville is growing. Two groups, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope and A Voice for the Reduction of Poverty, are mobilizing thousands of people to demand our government officials take immediate action to build, preserve and retain affordable housing throughout the city. If you care about building a city where everyone belongs, we urge you to join these efforts and make it clear that our government must act now.
Market forces will not create housing choice throughout communities, produce or preserve affordable housing, or protect vulnerable residents. These tasks require government intervention and citizen support. If we do nothing, we have made the choice to continue to promote racial and economic segregation. If we act now, we can create vibrant neighborhoods where residents of all incomes can thrive.
For more information, see our report on equitable development that was commissioned by Nashville’s Metro Planning Department at NashvilleNext (www.nashville.gov/Government/NashvilleNext.aspx).
James Fraser, PhD, is associate professor of human and organizational development at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development. Amie Thurber, MSW, is a doctoral student in human and organizational development at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development.
"A Tale of Two Nashville's," The People's Platform for Progress event will take place on February 22, 2015 at 3:00-4:30PM at the Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church | 1203 9th Ave North, Nashville, Tennessee. This meeting is hosted by NOAH, and is a major public meeting with mayoral candidates.
Amie Thurber, Jyoti Gupta, Doug Perkins and I completed a report for Metro Planning in Nashville, Tenneessee, on gentrification and affordable housing policies to enact. The report will be linked soon, and we have done multiple presnetations for Nashville Next citywide.
See, for video of the citywide meeting with Dr. Fraser:
I was quoted in this article on gentrification in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. Fraser's work cited in Futuricity.
Dr. Fraser's work cited in Science Daily.
Dr. Fraser cited in NBC FEMA news article.
Bloomberg to Offer Own Sandy Buy-Out Plan, with a Twist
Weeks after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed buying out homeowners in flood-prone areas, the Bloomberg administration is indicating that it will offer a similar program. But the mayor’s program could differ in one significant way: the properties the city acquires could be turned over to someone else to be developed again.
Under Cuomo’s plan, the state would use $400 million in federal Sandy aid to acquire, at pre-Sandy prices, properties from owners who would prefer to move than rebuild in the flood plain. The land would be turned into open space for use as parks, wetlands, drainage or other purposes. The governor said he would start the buyouts in the Oakwood Beach area of Staten Island's East Shore.
In testimony at a City Council committee hearing Feb. 26, Brad Gair, the director of the city’s housing recovery office, said the Bloomberg administration is working on its own buyout program using federal Community Development Block Grant funding, $1.8 billion of which has been earmarked for the city so far. He said details, like how much money would be devoted to it, had yet to be worked out. But he added the city’s plan may not stipulate that the acquired properties be turned into open space.
“If there is one element that we have not yet come to full alignment on,” Gair said, “it’s whether properties acquired should be made permanently open space or whether some of those would be suitable for redevelopment—preferably for the home owners in the area.”
It was the first time that a member of the Bloomberg administration said publicly that buyouts would be an important part of the city's relief package. Previously, Lauren Passalacqua, a City Hall spokeswoman, called buyouts "just one of many potential mitigation strategies."
At the City Council hearing, Gair said that even though one property owner may want to sell and move away from the 100-year-flood plain, other people would be willing to move there.
“These are valuable properties,” he said. “There is a limited amount of coastline properties.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been funding similar types of buyouts in flood prone areas for 20 years. But whenever FEMA buys out a property, it requires the land be set aside permanently for open space.
James Fraser, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, says the requirement protects taxpayers from having to pay twice for the same property: to buy it out, and then again later, if it gets flooded.
“When a locality continues to develop in a flood plains, they are not only putting themselves at risk,” Fraser, who has researched FEMA buyouts, said. “They are putting the nation at risk because financially FEMA has to pay for future flooding.”
Mayor Bloomberg has suggested that modern construction methods, such as elevating homes above the 100-year-flood level, will make them sufficiently flood-proof for the future. Fraser says modern rebuilding helps, but it doesn’t solve the whole problem.
“You still have impervious surface and that impervious surface is going to contribute to the amount of flooding that’s experienced in the surrounding area,” he said.
In a follow-up interview, Peter Spencer, a spokesman for the city’s housing recovery office, said that the city’s program would not be bound by FEMA's restrictions against redeveloping bought-out properties because the Community Development Block Grant money comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He added that allowing a resident to buy a property adjacent to his own, and which otherwise would be turned into open space, could alleviate the so-called “jack-o’-lantern effect” that some people worry will result if some, but not all, homeowners on a street otherwise sell their properties to the government. (A similar program in New Orleans allows people to renovate the structure on the adjacent lot and rent it out as long as that is permitted by zoning regulations.)
“There are some areas where perhaps it makes no sense to build on again,” Spencer said. “In other areas, the current owner may not have the desire or the means to rebuild, but there could be others who do want to. This certainly could be a way to rethink these communities and re-plan these communities and make them better."
If the city pursues its buyout plan, it would have to get permission from the federal government. Guidelines released Friday said any acquired property “could not typically be redeveloped.” But they do allow for some exceptions if the buyout price is based on the post-disaster value of the land and if additional aid to the property owner is given for relocation assistance.
The Dimensions of Political Ecology conference will have their annual meeting in Lexington, Kentucky February 28th through March 2nd. I will be presenting there on my flood studies.
Sandy might have been a storm of historic proportions, but Congress likely won't have to face the task this year of providing a fresh infusion of cash to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for the hurricane relief effort. But disaster funding is an issue that will likely come up in the 113th Congress.
FEMA's disaster fund got $7.1 billion in the latest spending bill. But thanks to the Budget Control Act, the agency can spend up to $11.3 billion on disaster response and recovery in 2012. Those sums, plus some carryover from a light disaster year in 2012, will fund the federal response to Sandy at least through the end of the year. That would spare Congress from having to deal with yet another thorny fight during the jam-packed lame-duck session.
Congressional staffers will monitor FEMA’s accounts closely to figure out when the agency might need a supplemental appropriation. The first clues will come from the official cost estimate for the storm, which aides say can take 30 to 60 days. Experts have estimated storm cleanup could cost anywhere from $10 billion to $20 billion, meaning that FEMA could be left without additional funding in 2013.
If that is the case, Congress may once again consider supplemental funding for FEMA. Approving additional federal money for disaster recovery used to be relatively routine for Congress, but in the past two years FEMA funds have gotten caught up in larger fights over federal spending and the deficit. Conservatives, particularly tea party members in the House, resisted giving a “blank check” to FEMA.
In 2011, after a record year of damage from hurricanes and tornadoes, FEMA was forced to shift money around and suspend projects to make it through the last five days of the fiscal year. In addition, the agency’s disaster relief fund fell to a nearly zero balance for the first time. The total amount of funding for FEMA became a political football, as Administrator Craig Fugate told members the $2.6 billion appropriated for aid in 2012 would not last through the year.
Democrats and Republicans previously reached compromise in the Budget Control Act in 2011, establishing a funding mechanism that determines the agency’s disaster funding by taking a 10-year average of FEMA spending, minus the most expensive and least expensive years. That is where the $11.3 billion figure for 2012 comes from.
“One of the benefits of a 10-year mechanism is that it is a commitment that would outlive the administration,” James Fraser, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University who has done research on FEMA, said in an interview. “That’s been really problematic in the past, when a different administration comes in,” funds can be quickly changed. "It gives the ability to forecast economically, with a certain amount of uncertainty," Fraser said.
But conservatives still see room for improvement.
“It’s somewhat of a constraint, but not really. We’ve just ended the most prolific, active 10 years in FEMA history. I wouldn’t use [the 10-year average] as a measure, but it’s better than a blank check,” said Matt Mayer, a visiting fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former senior official at Homeland Security.
“The key is that we conserve resources for events like Sandy,” Mayer said. “If you go back and look at [major disaster declarations made this year], very few are related to catastrophic events. They are flooding, fires, snowstorms--nothing we would consider a 10.0 earthquake or if a Category 3 hurricane hit the U.S.,” Mayer said.
Those are fights members can look forward to in the 113th Congress.