Barnes Fund helps Habitat for Humanity provide affordable housing

Mayor John Cooper proposed increasing the city’s operating budget for housing and more money for the BARNES fund during his State of The Metro Address in April.
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 7:08 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Living in Nashville can cost a pretty penny, and that’s why affordable housing is such a major issue here.

Mayor John Cooper proposed increasing the city’s operating budget for housing and more money for the Barnes fund during his State of the Metro Address in April.

News4 talked to Habitat for Humanity for Greater Nashville that helps provide affordable homes to get an update on projects being funded by the Barnes Fund.

Habitat said it received about $3 million from the Barnes Fund last year. Danny Herron, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville, said he is thrilled that there is more money being targeted to affordable housing.

“When you hear that all of Nashville, there are less than 300 homes for sale under $400,000. When you hear that under $200,000, there are only four homes available in all of Nashville,” Herron said. “Where do people who make hourly wages, who are in infrastructure, who work in our hotels, in our schools, in our police department, where are they going to live?”

“We feel so much relief every single time we hear stories in the news about the housing crisis that’s happening right now,” Erica Rittle, a Habitat homeowner who moved into her house in 2020.

Habitat is developing a new housing community called Village by the Creek, a project that received Barnes Fund money.

“Affordability is everything. Part of that is not only the land cost, but the development of that land cost,” Herron said. “So, Barnes Housing Trust Fund has made a substantial down payment to help us.”

The new development couldn’t come fast enough.

“To show you the interest and the need in this community, we opened applications about a month ago for this development. We had 750 people apply in the first 30 minutes. It kind of crashed our system,” Herron said.

It’s a wake-up call to the affordable housing need in Nashville, a city where experts said the median cost of a home is over $400,000.

“It definitely has given us a feeling of security in some really insecure times,” Rittle said.

Rittle feels relief knowing she can afford her home thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville.

“Right now, for our four-bedroom house, we’re paying $650 a month to have a home we own that’s ours. That number is not going be able to go up,” Rittle said. “We just passed by a house that’s about the same size as ours that’s not far from our kids’ school and it’s going for maybe four or five times what we’re paying for our house. It’s just not realistic for most people’s budgets.”

Barnes Fund helped in the development of where Rittle’s home is in the Park Preserve community. The Barnes fund is also helping with land development for Village by the Creek where 58 single-family homes will sit. The cost of those homes will start in the upper $200,000s.

“This is Village by the Creek, north of Briley Parkway, which will also provide more affordable housing for people who live in the community and are moving to this community, and again to see neighborhoods not be gentrified, to continue allowing people who grew up here to live in this community and not be priced out,” Herron said.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville serves families who are up to 80% below the area’s median income. For example, a combined family income of $50,000 to $60,000 a year.

“For those who work in our community to find a place to call a home in Nashville is becoming more and more impossible,” Herron said. “I grew up in Middle Tennessee. My parents were both public educators. I don’t believe they could even afford to live in Nashville today because those who teach, those who serve the community, do hourly jobs that are necessary can’t even find a place to live.”

“We need teachers. We need people working in restaurants. We need these people who aren’t making a million dollars a year to live in a city. You can’t have a city of just rich folks unless they’re planning on bussing their own tables,” Rittle said.

Habitat for Humanity is hoping to have some families moved into the Village by the Creek development by the end of this year and all 58 families moved in by spring 2024.

“We know because of the mayor’s response to saying this is not just a one-time funding but ongoing funding for the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, we are in the process of acquiring land off Ewing Drive, and again that land will be developed with funding,” Herron said.

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