Report Finds Tennessee Homes Vital to Health, Education Outcomes, But Increasingly Out of Reach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (August 7, 2018) – Quality housing is becoming more scarce and expensive for renters and would-be-homeowners in Tennessee, finds a new policy brief released today by ThinkTennessee and the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, putting other priorities, like health and education, at risk.

The fourth in ThinkTennessee’s State of Our State 2018 dashboard series, the report demonstrates how market forces contribute to rising home prices and illustrates why housing unaffordability negatively impacts all Tennesseans.

“Homes are more than simply a roof over our heads,” said Shanna Singh Hughey, ThinkTennessee president. “Housing shapes our lives in incredibly important ways, determining our access to transit, fresh produce, high-quality jobs and good schools. If we’re serious about bettering our health and economy, we must address our housing crisis, too.”

According to the report, the Tennessee housing market is especially problematic for low- and middle-income residents. Indeed, the state is missing nearly 133,000 affordable rental units, forcing many of the most extremely low-income families to spend upwards of 50% of their income just to have a place to live. Homeownership in Tennessee is also increasingly at risk, with median home prices in the state growing at a much faster rate than the median family income.

Despite these troubling statistics, the researchers remain optimistic and say there are a number of options Tennessee can consider to improve the state of housing.

“We don’t have any silver bullets, but we can identify a number of housing strategies that are proven to move the needle in the right direction, especially when it comes to the financial stability and quality of life of families in a particular neighborhood,” said THDA Research Director Bettie Teasley. “The most effective approaches to affordable housing tend to create broad, community-wide benefits, including a stronger economy, lower employment, and higher tax revenues.”

In particular, the brief highlights policies that have already been shown to be effective in other southeastern states, including land banks, which help localities and nonprofit organizations purchase and manage abandoned or delinquent properties, and preservation databases, which help assess the number and condition of affordable housing units.

The full brief is available here, and the complete State of Our State dashboard, including over 100 rankings, is here.