NIMBY Impulses Will Make Nashville’s Housing Crisis Worse
Nashvillians should reject restrictive zoning and embrace opportunities to create more diverse housing.
Originally published at The Center Square with Daniel J. Smith.
Nashville needs more housing, and it needs it fast. A 2021 report from the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Taskforce projects that Nashville needs to add nearly 54,000 units by 2030 to keep up with demand, or 4,800 units per year. And there are things the city can do to make it easier to build.
Nashville and other major cities around the country favor restrictive zoning for single family homes, which makes it difficult to build high density housing. This perpetuates an artificial shortage by reducing the supply of units available to meet demand. As cities like Nashville grow, developers naturally want to build more apartments, duplexes, and other multi-family housing that can fit more people in a smaller area, especially in cities where prime real estate is most in demand.
To address its affordable housing crisis, Nashville leaders should champion pro-growth rules that would provide builders with the zoning flexibility necessary to meet our growing housing demand. A primary obstacle continues to be the concerns raised by the predictable Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) coalitions that rally behind prohibitive zoning schemes.
For instance, a group called “Bellevue Strong” has mobilized to oppose a new 417-unit apartment complex at the 43-acre site, Ariza Bellevue. If successful, their efforts will only serve to reduce housing and growth opportunities for Nashvillians and deny Bellevue the benefits that come with increased population growth.
While their arguments may be well-intentioned, here’s why they are based on faulty premises.
Inconsistent with Community Character: Bellevue Strong argues that the development is “inconsistent” with Bellevue’s community plan and is not “harmonious or compatible with surrounding property uses.” What this amounts to is a fear that renters, who don’t have a “stake” in the community, will reduce the sense of community.
But research shows this fear is unfounded. Renters are more likely to socialize with neighbors and participate in community organizations. Renters in expensive areas like Bellevue are likely to be empty nesters or retirees looking to downsize while still remaining in the community or young professionals and couples just starting out and looking to establish roots in the area. Nothing will destroy a community faster (not to mention its moral character) than not allowing housing options for those unable to afford a $2 million home.
Certainly, the developer’s plans appear to make a concerted effort to attract these types of new residents with a bridge to Bellevue Park (currently landlocked by the Harpeth River), donated public park space, bike and pedestrian paths (down Coley David Road), and a bike tunnel (underneath CSX railroad), and greenway access. Rather than tear the community apart, the developer is investing millions to piece “the greenway puzzle together.” Importantly, these new high end apartments will free up more affordable housing options elsewhere in the city.
Justin Hayes is a communications specialist and a Bellevue resident. Twitter: @justin_hayes11. Daniel J. Smith is the director of the Political Economy Research Institute at Middle Tennessee State University and professor of economics at the Jones College of Business. Twitter: @smithdanj1.