Over the past few years, more and more Nashvillians have been feeling the effects of the affordable housing crisis - and this has led to some great dialogue about how to ensure the city is accessible for all the people who make it a great place to live, work, and play.
But with the May 1 referendum just days away (see voting poll locations), let’s elevate the conversation beyond just housing and look at the other factors that affect a family’s budget. Almost a third of Davidson County residents are housing cost-burdened, meaning they’re spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. Transportation, which accounts for another 23% of a typical household budget, is the next highest spending category. If the average Nashvillian spends half their income on housing + transportation, a reduction in either spending category will open up resources for food, education, healthcare, and savings.
Affordable housing is a great need in Nashville - but housing that is disconnected from employment, education, and quality public space does little good. A robust transit system can enable residents to remain connected while reducing transportation costs and improving health and quality of life.
The Let’s Move Nashville plan supports overall affordability and quality of life for the city’s residents by reducing transportation cost burden, especially for those experiencing poverty, living with a disability, senior citizens, and those under the age of 18 - all of whom will receive free or reduced fares. If Nashville votes on May 1 to invest in a more sustainable, connected future for the city, the next step is a pre-design process, involving community input to ensure the plan aligns with neighborhood-level priorities. From the location and design of transit hubs to policy interventions and financial tools, this process is a chance for community members to help shape how the city grows
Earlier this year, the Mayor’s office convened a task force of local leaders to develop a set of recommendations for embedding affordability into the transit plan. Those recommendations include things like establishing transit-oriented development districts that could generate funding for affordable housing, working with small business along corridors ahead of construction to ensure their sustainability and growth, and utilizing the new community land trust or a land bank to preserve affordable real estate along corridors. This process will require intentional, thoughtful planning and accountability, but it is a unique opportunity to shape the future of the city so that it benefits all residents. Affordable housing is a critical component of successful transit-oriented development, reducing the cost of living for residents and connecting public transportation to those who most benefit from it.
Transit is not the only solution to our city’s affordable housing crisis - but we can’t adequately address housing without it. We have to start somewhere, and we have to start now.
Read the full recommendations from the Transit & Affordability Task Force here.