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VOL. 41 | NO. 13 | Friday, March 31, 2017
Casada bill targets Nashville's affordable housing requirements
By Sam Stockard
Saying free market forces should control development, state Rep. Glen Casada pushed a measure through the House Thursday targeting a Nashville ordinance placing affordable housing requirements on developers.
Casada, the House Majority leader and Franklin Republican, argued Davidson County and Nashville are prospering because of the Legislature’s tax cuts and small-government philosophy, which enables the free market to set the price on homes.
“Government mandates drive up the cost of housing,” Casada told members before the House voted 72-21 to approve the legislation.
Casada’s bill is designed to turn back Metro Nashville’s inclusionary zoning housing measure, which requires residential apartment developers building five or more units to include a certain percentage of units at workforce prices. Metro also has a pilot program offering incentives and grants to developers who build affordable housing.
Metro leaders have raised concerns over the last few years that the working class won’t be able to afford to live in Nashville as the price of homes and apartments increases.
Rep. Mike Stewart, a Nashville Democrat, contended Nashville has hit a difficult spot because rents have increased from $700 to $1,200 on many apartments.
“This is an area where we really need to allow some autonomy,” Stewart said, noting developers are getting a trade-off by being allowed to build more units, including low-income units, on a smaller tract of land.
The issue renewed debate over issues relating to the ability of cities and counties to set their own rules. Last week, the House passed legislation saying state law preempts local governments from setting their own rules in regard to drug control, targeting Memphis and Nashville ordinances allowing police officers to write civil citations for possession of small amounts of marijuana instead of making misdemeanor arrests.
Casada and other Republicans contend state government created cities and counties and, thus, has authority to “set the framework” for their operations.
On affordable housing, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said local governments should be allowed to set their own rules based on what is happening in their markets.
“There’s no free market for those who can’t participate in a free market,” said Fitzhugh, who represents rural Ripley in West Tennessee.
Fitzhugh said he’s afraid such legislation will leave less affluent communities in a “lurch” if they need to take steps to improve housing, based on the potential for widespread impact from the bill.
Rep. G.A. Hardaway, a Memphis Democrat, warned that the Legislature is continuing to send the wrong message to cities and counties and argued that state leaders should be “getting out of the way and allowing people to run their own lives.”
Hardaway pointed out “gentrification” will continue to drive up costs while mixed-income communities will become scarce.
Casada, however, said cities and counties exist because the Legislature created them.
“We don’t want to see cities do something that affects our constituents, which is to drive up costs,” Casada said.
The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Ferrell Haile, a Gallatin Republican, is scheduled to be considered April 4 by the Senate State and Local Government Committee.
Sam Stockard can be reached at email@example.com.