Monday, June 12, 2023

Middle Tennessee zoning policies contributing to unaffordable housing

by Jon Styf, The Center Square, June 12, 2023 – After finding housing affordability is the most pressing issue for Tennesseans through its 2022 listening tour, Beacon Center has developed and released an atlas of Tennessee zoning requirements that highlight how the state has become unaffordable for the average person in Middle Tennessee.

Local and state policies have contributed to an environment where housing prices have outpaced the median income.

"Tennesseans, whether renting an apartment or trying to buy their first house, are dealing with record rising home costs, particularly in Middle Tennessee,” said Beacon Policy Director Ron Shultis. “And while most point to record growth and people moving into our community to explain higher costs, one cause has escaped criticism: zoning. Through lines drawn on a map, local governments arbitrarily limit the supply of housing, especially more affordable options like accessory dwelling units (such as in-law suites), duplexes, and multi-family housing."

The report, which includes a full housing atlas, shows that multi-family housing like apartments are banned on 94% of Middle Tennessee land and duplexes are banned on 59% of land. Only 11% of Nashville allows apartments while Maury County allows affordable housing on 96% of land while Forest Hills, Brentwood, and Sumner County effectively ban them.

"Both state and local policymakers should enact pro-housing reforms to make Tennessee cities a more welcoming and affordable place for low and middle-income residents,” Shultis said. “By passing pro-housing reforms such as reducing the restrictions on ADUs and allowing more mixed-use and multi-family development, policymakers can increase the supply of homes and drive down costs."

Accessible dwelling units, such as mother-in-law suites, are allowed on 57.8% of Middle Tennessee land while ADUs can be rented to non-family members on just 34% of land.

“With Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee specifically, experiencing large in-migration as people flee high-tax states, zoning exacerbates the problems that have led to record housing cost increases,” the report says. “While there is understandably a concern over affordable housing in Middle Tennessee, the cause of this affordable housing crisis is often misplaced. Only through reforming the arbitrary red tape of zoning codes can we solve this government-created crisis.”

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1 comment:

  1. Yes, affordable housing is a crisis and excess regulations and zoning are major factors. But don't forget that homeowners who live in these areas where 'one acre per home' or so stand to see their property values hurt by the unplanned arrival of many more people, cars, infrastructure construction and other changes. Before dumping these regulations, the interests of residents in such areas need to be addressed.