Mayors from all over Williamson County recently addressed the issue of affordable housing in the county and their respective cities. Some of the cities are working to try to find ways to provide housing to low- and middle-income workers and others have come across hurdles such as the rising cost of land, increased cost of building, and in some cases sacrosanct zoning regulations.
“Several years ago, we came up with a plan for a range of housing options,” said Thompson’s Station Mayor Corey Napier. “Unfortunately, construction costs rose and the market changed. But we will continue to try to engage diverse housing prices.” Spring Hill is suffering from the same issue.
While Thompson’s Station and Spring Hill are currently stalled on the issue, Franklin created a set of land use guidelines a number of years ago called Envision Franklin. This document includes stipulations for low- and middle-income housing. Franklin Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, and the Community Housing Partnership are working together and individually on different projects to address the issue.
In Franklin, some of this additional affordable housing is coming from the redevelopment of current low-income housing to make better use of the property by tearing down the old and building more units on one piece of land, such as they are doing near Jim Warren Park. There, 72 old units are being torn down and 100 new multi-family apartment units and townhomes will take their place. According to an article in the Williamson Herald, “The townhomes and multifamily units will range in size from one to five bedrooms on a 7.5-acre plot of land, with an area for a park included and proximity to public transportation.”
In east Franklin off Wood Duck Court, Community Housing Partnership is building a 237-unit condominium complex with one and two-bedroom units. The complex will be comprised of eight four-story buildings.
Affordable housing is also a part of the Brownland Farms development proposal. It will offer 136 apartment homes in two-story buildings designed to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.
“Franklin Housing Authority is currently working with other members of Hill LLC to develop affordable housing units on the Hill property off Hillsboro Road by Sonic,” according to Franklin Mayor, Ken Moore. Hill LLC is a coalition comprised of the Williamson County Community Housing Partnership, Habitat for Humanity of Maury and Williamson County, Hard Bargain Association and the Franklin Housing Authority.
According to Moore, Habitat is being challenged by soaring property prices as they try to continue their mission in the county of building affordable no-interest homes.
Fairview, which has the highest poverty rate in the county, is also working hard to provide its citizens with low-income housing. Whispering Winds, a 14-home development provided by Community Housing Partnership of Williamson County, is helping to address the issue there. Located off of Cumberland Drive on beautiful wooded lots, the development will offer three-bedroom, two-bath craftsman-style homes. They broke ground summer of 2020.
While the government understands there is a lack of affordable housing, Nolensville struggles with balancing affordable housing with the single-family home community that residents have come to expect.
Brentwood Mayor Rhea Little said that with its one home per acre mandate, he sees no efforts for affordable housing likely to occur there in the foreseeable future.
“While we once had homes that were in the $200,000 range,” said Little, “that is a thing of the past. We have 130 to 170 new home building permits per year, and the cost of an acre of land starts at $750,000.”
Since the 1980s, Williamson County has exploded in population because of the great quality of life that County Mayor Rogers Anderson often notes. But this quality has caused a supply and demand problem, and that has increased during the last year due to the pandemic. It has caused housing prices to soar. In July alone, according to rockethomes.com, average home prices in the county increased by more than 14%.
Many of the people who work in Williamson County in restaurants and shops, or even teach in the schools, can no longer afford to live there and often commute.
Anderson noted that it is going to take partnerships working together to solve the problem. He notes that there are ways that government can help lessen the burned of impact and other fees, but it will also mean working with electric and utility companies, as well as developers, non-profits, and other local businesses to come together and make affordable housing a reality throughout the county.