NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced Tuesday that the annual funding for the Barnes Fund - Nashville's affordable housing trust fund - would be cut nearly in half.
The announcement came via press release an hour before the Metropolitan Housing Trust Fund Commission was scheduled to approve the original $9.5 million in grants for the Barnes Fund. Cooper announced that he would be awarding just $5 million in grants instead, saying the decision was made in response to recent warnings about the city's budget from the state comptroller's office.
"It was a surprise to be informed of this decision when we were about to award funding to so many thoughtful and creative affordable housing projects," said Gina Emmanuel, chair of the commission. "We hope this is a temporary issue for our city as well as the Barnes Fund and that Nashville has a lasting commitment to improving affordable housing in our community."
According to the Mayor's Office, the Barnes Fund has invested $37 million in affordable housing projects since it was formed in 2013, and has helped build 1,700 housing units.
“Even with our current budget difficulties, we are pleased to announce that the Barnes Fund will make grant awards due to their critical importance to housing affordability in our city,” said Mayor Cooper in a press release. “The Barnes Fund is a critical part of making sure that affordable housing is at the center of everything we do in Nashville. Providing housing stability for our children, taking stress off our local workforce, and creating opportunities for seniors to remain in their communities are all goals that help achieve a stronger Nashville for all of us.”
Cooper added that he is hoping to approve more grants for the Barnes Fund in the spring of 2020. The new round of grants, according to the press release, will "support the development and rehabilitation of 549 affordable housing units in Nashville."
Council member Colby Sledge (District 17) told News4 that if the original $9.5 million had been approved, 680 would have been built.
Other city leaders were upset with Cooper's decision as well. At-large Council member Bob Mendes tweeted that the announcement "stings a lot" and that it is "the ugly ripple effect of an unbalanced budget."