New TN law tackles housing affordability with more multifamily homes

Published 10:18 am Friday, May 31, 2024

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In response to Tennessee’s critical housing shortage, a new law allows local governments to incentivize developers to build more affordable housing.

The Volunteer State has experienced increased job growth recently, but only six homes have been constructed for every 10 new jobs created over the past decade.

Report author Adriane Bond Harris, ThinkTennessee’s senior adviser for housing policy, said incentives may include increased density, reduced parking minimums and setbacks, and expedited permitting processes in exchange for more affordable rentals and housing prices within developments.

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“So affordable housing is really for anyone right now in Tennessee that needs some type of affordability,” she said, “so that can mean anyone that’s working in Tennessee [and] needs affordable housing, housing that is within 30% of their income.”

Harris said this legislation only applies to multifamily developments such as large apartment complexes. Developers of these projects can propose making 10% of units qualify as affordable housing. In exchange, the city would provide zoning incentives to the developers.

Harris said high construction and land costs have made it financially difficult for developers to build more housing, which, they argue, typically doesn’t yield a sufficient return on investment. But this new legislation will have an impact.

“Each jurisdiction has to define what it is they mean by attainable housing,” she said. “That’s the new term that many cities are using to say that it’s not just affordable housing. But this is also going beyond the affordable-housing limits to be more attainable limits, which includes more of the middle-income individuals and families.”

Harris said new data show affordable housing typically targets people making 80% of the median family income. For a family of four in Davidson County, that’s around $85,500 annually. However, the median family income in Davidson County is more than $106,000.