You said something about the housing challenges in Nashville, and it wasn’t surprising to hear the overwhelming feeling of deficiency - of not having enough. You cited a lack of housing, lack of housing types, lack of diversity, lack of connection to green spaces. We could add a lack of funding, lack of a comprehensive plan, and lack of public support to that list.
So what do we have, aside from a housing affordability crisis?
We have you.
You might be thinking, “What can I do? I don’t have millions of dollars to build housing.” You might be struggling to pay the bills yourself. When the challenge is so big, our contributions can feel so small - but every dollar spent, letter sent, and hand lent adds up.
The first step in finding solutions is understanding the problem. Earlier this year, the Nashville Civic Design Center released the Affordable Housing 101 publication, designed to help members of our community better understand the value of high-quality, well-connected, and affordable housing for our city. This publication explores some of the most frequently asked questions about affordable housing, like:
What does “affordable” even mean?
Why is affordable housing important?
Who lives there?
How does it get built?
Who pays for it?
What is the current state of affairs in Nashville?
What is the city doing about it?
What else can we do to solve our housing crisis?
Outlining the answers to all these questions can help us find the best opportunities for innovation and creativity.
You have made it clear that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Having thousands of people unhoused in Nashville is unacceptable. Forcing families to choose between paying for food and medicine or paying for rent and utilities is not acceptable. Prioritizing profit over people is not acceptable. A city that only works for the wealthy, white, or able-bodied is not acceptable.
Housing becomes an equity issue when so many of the barriers to accessing housing disproportionately affect low-income, minority, and elderly residents. It becomes a business issue when employers struggle to retain a workforce, especially in the service and hospitality sectors. It’s a public health issue when poor quality housing is associated with higher instances of chronic health conditions like asthma. It becomes a transportation issue when people spend more on transportation costs than they save by living outside of town. The scale of our housing crisis and its connection to so many other challenges demands a comprehensive, coordinated, and cross-disciplinary effort to promote policy, funding, and design solutions that work together to make an impact. Investing in affordable housing is investing in a more sustainable and equitable future for Nashville.
Affordable housing is about all members of our communities having a place to call home. It’s about saving space for the hospitality workers, teachers, nursing assistants, bus drivers, security guards, postal workers, restaurant servers, and Metro employees that keep our city running. It’s about designing a quality product and a quality process. It requires working to ensure that those most directly impacted by these issues are at the table when decision-makers are designing solutions.
The housing crisis in Nashville is not unique to Music City, but the solutions that we design can be. In a city that embraces its creative soul and welcoming spirit, we must all champion creative ways to ensure access to housing for all our neighbors — because we can't afford not to.