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To tackle Nashville’s affordable housing problem, city names its first director and earmarks more funds

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WPLN
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Tony Gonzalez
Some members of the Metro Council say they're concerned that affordable housing is being pushed into some suburban communities that already have plenty, since many developers have said they can't build affordable units downtown with the current spike in property values.

Nashville is funneling more money into affordable housing and hiring someone to direct affordable housing across city government.

Mayor John Cooper announced Monday that he’s doubling the money previously announced that will go in the Barnes Fund, which is used to help nonprofit developers build new units that will remain affordable.

Angela Hubbard will be the director of Metro's new housing division. Previously, she was the director of economic and community development for the Greater Nashville Regional Council.
Courtesy Metro
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Angela Hubbard will be the director of Metro's new housing division. Previously, she was the director of economic and community development for the Greater Nashville Regional Council.

The $20 million, which comes from federal COVID relief, is enough to build about a thousand units. Since its creation in 2013, the Barnes Fund is credited with creating 2,500 affordable units.

“I promised to institutionalize the city’s affordable housing efforts both by bringing on additional expertise and moving the Barnes Fund into a standing department,” Cooper said in a statement. “Today I can announce that we have done just that.”

The city is also putting $20 million from COVID relief money into the newly created “Catalyst Fund,” which is supposed to help buy up existing affordable units and save them from redevelopment.

But some council members are concerned about which developers are receiving the incentives and where the units are going. Councilmember Tanaka Vercher says they’re concentrated in suburban districts like hers in Antioch, that already have plenty of affordable housing.

“We all want to make sure that we’re trying to address the needs of a growing city,” she said at a budget committee meeting Monday night. “But it has to be a holistic approach. It’s too fragmented.”

Metro is trying to act more comprehensively. On Monday, Mayor Cooper also announced the creation of a housing division and the hiring of its first director, Angela Hubbard. She starts at the first of the year.

Blake Farmer is Nashville Public Radio's senior health care reporter. In a partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, Blake covers health in Tennessee and the health care industry in the Nashville area for local and national audiences.
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