A few members of the minority caucus agreed to meet with Councilmember Burkley Allen (District 18) and a North Nashville homeowner on Tuesday evening. Councilmember Allen, who is currently running for Council At-Large, spearheaded a bill that would limit developments, specifically for what’s called non-owner occupied rentals. Many of these are presently being used for short-term rentals for tourist.
Short-term rentals, more commonly known as Airbnbs, have been a subject of controversy for several years in Nashville.
It is a complicated issue and especially for one African American family that has owned its property in North Nashville since the 1890s, possibly earlier. The family owns two properties across the street from one another located in District 19 and bordering District 21.
The homeowner expressed great concern for how the bill was directly impacting her ability to provide the much-needed financial resources for the three generations of her family. Her mother is now in her 90s. The homeowner is the primary caregiver, and her 20-year-old daughter is preparing for graduate school.
Under financial strain, she sought out and found a developer who was willing to enter into a partnership with the family, allowing the development of part of the property, so that they could stay on their ancestral land. The deal is contingent on the land use being approved for short-term rentals.
“I promised my grandmother on her death bed that I would never sell,” she said.
However, the deal is now being threatened by Allen’s legislation.
The homeowner went into quite a bit of detail about how Black people always are the ones who get the financial short end of the stick regarding policies centered on ownership of their property. She shared some historical facts, citing multiple examples.
Much of what she shared was not familiar to Councilmember Allen, who was unfamiliar with the land plight of African Americans in Nashville. Each of the council members there, Ed Kindall (District 21), DeCosta Hastings (District 2), Scott Davis (District 5) and Sharon Hurt (At-Large) were all very concerned and quite sympathetic to the homeowner’s dilemma.
Councilwoman Hurt felt not enough time is devoted to looking at broader implications before many bills are written and passed.
Also at the meeting was local community activist Jackie Sims. Sims has spent much of her time researching Black wealth (or lack thereof) and its relationship to homeownership.
“The truth is over the years many of these land use policies have racial implications,” she said. “It has made it much more difficult to for people to build general wealth they same way whites have been able to do.”
There was a consensus that more time and research was needed in efforts to try and better protect the interest of long-term African American homeowners.
“I personally feel special consideration needs to be given to these long term residents who have had to contend with racial policies around homeownership from the time they were able to purchase a home,” said Sims.
“I also understand we have to find more balance with the growth of the Airbnb market and not allow it to overtake the need for affordable housing in Nashville,” she said.
“The need now for affordable housing in our city is critical. Equal as critical is the need to allow more persons of color to share in the prosperity of a pro-growth city such as ours. African Americans are just as interested in building generational wealth for their families.”