Report to help ensure proposed transit system complements and supports small business and affordable housing needs
The Mayor’s Transit and Affordability Taskforce, led by former Mayor Bill Purcell and Davidson County Clerk Brenda Wynn, has delivered recommendations to Mayor Megan Barry on how Nashville can develop policies and programs to support small businesses and cost-burdened residents along proposed high-capacity transit corridors.
“The commitment of these Taskforce members to our people and our neighborhoods, like that of our Mayor, is unquestioned,” said Mayor Purcell. “There was broad consensus to the procedural and substantive proposals made. While there was not unanimous agreement on all specific ways in which to achieve our goals, the Taskforce believes that by the time this transit program is fully implemented, the need for affordable housing in our city must be fully met. We know this will not be accomplished by new transit-oriented development districts or the transit plan alone, but we all agree these recommendations will serve as an essential component.”
The Taskforce met repeatedly over the course of two months to research potential issues and best practices. Mayor Barry’s charge to them was to produce recommendations to ensure any proposed expansion of Nashville’s transit system would not result in the displacement of local small or minority-owned businesses and low-to-moderate-income residents. Taskforce membership was comprised of small business owners currently located along high-capacity corridors, affordable housing advocates, financial experts, and philanthropic, academic and community leaders.
“These are incredibly exciting and critical times in the life of our city,” said Clerk Wynn. “If we continue to work together in the spirit of this Taskforce as the transit program is implemented, we have every reason to believe that Nashville can become an even more livable city by meeting all of our current and future citizens’ needs.”
Following a kickoff meeting on November 8, the Taskforce divided its membership into three subject-specific subcommittees with appointed Chairs for each: Small Business; Neighborhoods and Preservation of Housing; Development and Finance. Each subcommittee researched and developed a list of strategies around each of these policy focus areas – many having been successfully deployed in other U.S. cities with rail transit systems – which were then organized and compiled as a broad set of recommendations to city leaders and the public at-large.
“Over the course of a 15-year program to build transit infrastructure and beyond, market conditions and our city’s needs may shift and change — but we can put processes in place to ensure those changes result in an equitable, affordable city,” said Councilmember At-large Bob Mendes, who chaired the Neighborhoods and Preservation of Housing subcommittee for the Taskforce. “Our recommendations, coupled with policies that promote affordable and workforce housing development throughout Davidson County, will help us move toward our goal of ensuring residents are not cost-burdened due to a lack of housing options.”
The recommendations in the final report are divided into five focus areas:
Community Outreach and Education
- Proactively engage stakeholders – including residents, landlords, developers and others – to determine how existing housing stock and small businesses can be preserved and retained.
- Use government and community leadership to inventory assets along each corridor.
- Create a sustainable communication strategy so that all residents and businesses can have relevant, timely updates on implementation of Let’s Move Nashville as a whole, as well as project development along specific corridors.
Guidance on Transit-Oriented Developments
- Before corridor construction projects begin, develop firm, fixed targets for affordable housing units and local small business development.
- Develop a reliable annual scorecard by which to measure progress toward these fixed affordable-housing and small-business retention targets.
- Prioritize the inclusion of essential community services (e.g., health clinics, libraries, grocery stores, employment centers, daycares) in design guidelines for transit-oriented developments.
- Program funding to acquire and “land bank” property to be developed at a future date along high-capacity transit corridors.
- By the time Let’s Move Nashville is fully implemented, the Taskforce’s foremost hope is that Nashville’s affordable housing needs will have been fully met, and that the production level will more closely meet demand.
Greater Government Alignment and Resilience
- As the Transit Improvement Program is implemented, Metro and the Metro Development and Housing Agency should improve their working relationship toward a more collaborative partnership with more closely aligned resources and processes.
- Metro must develop and adhere to standards that incentivize the creation of affordable housing units in exchange for zoning and density entitlements.
- A front-of-line preference for granting permits should be considered for developers who commit to building affordable housing units.
- Transit corridors must link to greenways and parks where possible.
- Coordinate with MNPS on how housing development could impact school enrollment patterns.
- Create a dedicated public funding source to support the creation and retention of affordable, transit-supportive housing and commercial space. (Funding should be at an amount equivalent to at least 2 percent of the expected capital costs for Let’s Move Nashville.)
- Involve Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and other alternative sources of capital to help finance affordable housing.
- Create a Social Impact Fund that engages foundations, philanthropic organizations, and socially responsible investors to support Nashville’s affordable housing and commercial space goals.
- MDHA’s Transit-Oriented Development Districts should set aside a minimum 20 percent of any public subsidies for affordable housing.
- Review TIF and PILOT program incentives to maximize their potential impact on affordable housing and small business development.
- Use transit project development as an opportunity to also build capacity among community-based organizations.
- Engage private partners in the development of affordable housing along transit corridors.
“Let’s Move Nashville doesn’t just consist of light rail projects. These are positive economic and community development projects with rail lines running through them,” said Mayor Barry. “If we’re going to be an equitable, diverse, and inclusive city, we can’t sacrifice transit or affordable real estate for one over the other — we need both. These recommendations provide a solid ground upon which to build as we tackle the challenges facing a majority of American cities: how to grow and prosper without displacing our most vulnerable residents and businesses. I’m incredibly grateful for the leadership and dedication shown by this Taskforce. I look forward to working with Metro Council, MDHA, state officials, and others on ways to implement these important recommendations.”
On Thursday, January 11, the Metro Council will meet as a Committee of the Whole to discuss the ordinance introduced by the administration to place the transit improvement program on the May 1, 2018 ballot.