Gentrification: Issue addressed by four Antioch-area council members

The Hays-Kiser House in Antioch represents one end of the housing spectrum. The range of housing plus real estate interest endangers Antioch to gentrification.

The Hays-Kiser House in Antioch represents one end of the housing spectrum. The range of housing plus real estate interest endangers Antioch to gentrification.

Antioch is growing and real estate in the community is hot.

A number of companies have or are in the process of moving to Antioch, and some major developments are underway.

As the new moves in, does the old move out? What is the impact of gentrification and how can Metro Council representatives from Antioch protect local populations from the negative impact of gentrification?

“Out here in this community we are experiencing rapid growth and a rise in property values,” Ben Freeland, owner of Freeland Chevrolet and moderator of a discussion with council members at last week’s Crossings Nashville Action Partnership meeting, said.

“This part of Nashville is really starting to attention from a real estate perspective,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities to expand residential while at the same time not displace current residents.

Freeland added that there are a lot of jobs in the area being created but that quite a few people in Antioch may not be in a position to take advantage of those jobs.

“How do we protect our diversity?” he asked. “How do we help people maintain and stay in their homes.”

Council Member Fabian Bedne, Distrct-31, stated that one of his passions is trying to find ways to help elderly homeowners stay in their homes.

“As an elderly family member ages, it is harder to for them to stay in their homes,” he said. “Homes aren’t designed for people my age and older. If you have arthritis, you can’t use door knobs. There are no ramps.”

He added that when a person is displaced they go somewhere where they don’t know their neighbors.

“You want to call your neighbor and say, ‘can you help me’ or ‘can you give a ride to the doctor,’” Bedne said. “We strengthen communities by avoiding gentrification.”

Bedne, who chairs the Metro Council’s Affordable Housing Committee, said they are trying to figure out a way to prevent gentrification and called it a “very complex issue” – a phrase heard throughout the discussion on gentrification.
“If you were living close to work but had to move, you have more expenses,” he said. “Now you have to buy a car, insurance. There are more expenses.”

He said there are studies being developed in Nashville right now, but that the Metro Council should get everybody who has a stake in building the city around the table and “figure out what is the best way to preserve affordability in a way that helps developers make money, realtors sell homes, and people to stay in their homes.”

Council Member Jacobia Dowell, District 32, is confident the council can do a number of things.

“Antioch is at risk,” she said.  “Most communities are at risk when they have a high number of renters, and we have a lot (of renters) in our community.

“We need to explore home ownership and there are lots of programs to help you get in a house,” she said.
She said on the policy side, the metro council worked on an inclusionary zoning bill Bedne sponsored and Dowell cosigned.

“We’ve asked planning to come up with program to include affordable housing and incentivize builders,” Dowell said.
She pointed out that gentrification also occurs when there is a disaster. She used the example of Hurricane Katrina where after the flooding, developers purchased property cheap, reaped the benefits of tax breaks, and gave nothing back to the city.

“We can enact legislation when we enact pilots and TIFFs so that as part of this discount you need to do a, b, and c,” she said.  “We have not done it.”

At the end of the day, Dowell said it is about making sure developers are responsible and that they have a reason to provide housing diversity. She pointed to the Ridgeview Community in Antioch as an example of this.

“If you have houses with character, you can attract young, creative types of people,” she said. “It takes housing diversity.”

Council Member Sam Coleman, District 33, had a different take on the idea of renting.

“I don’t agree with Jacobia’s perspective on renting,” he said. “Sometimes people rent they get older and don’t want the burden of upkeep. Young people out of college just getting started can’t afford a house.”

He added that we need to ask for a mixture of houses so we have different sets of housing and a diverse economic basis.

“We (the council members) have control. That is we can control the development in our particular District,” he said. “WE have to keep an eye on development and balance the attack.”

“You aren’t going to do it is one swab,” said Coleman.  “We have to be fair to those who have and to those who feel put out.”

Tanaka Vercher, District 28, said, “We all are in agreement we want to preserve our neighborhoods out here. That’s what many of us ran on.”

Vercher called for a balanced approach toward complex issue.

“We need to educate neighbors and seniors as it relates to initiatives and things they can do to freeze property taxes – there are programs for that,” Vercher said. “That will help them as it relates to staying in their home and affordability.”

She pointed out that District 28 has a mixture residences in district.

“I don’t want to consider low or high end,” she said.  “I refer to them as established and newer neighborhoods.  We have historic baker town area, where lots of singers live, plus newer neighborhoods.”

Vercher said she wants to be responsible in attracting new development by letting developers know Antioch is a welcoming community but will work to preserve neighborhoods and protect neighbors, particularly seniors.

“One of our strengths on the council is we do have influence over zoning and developers and how we massage those relationships, but it takes all of us to make sure we work together and end up with a community we want,” she said.

In closing, she offered what was probably the most important statement of the evening, in terms of gentrification.

“Good communities don’t happen by accident,” Vercher said. “Good communities are intentional.”

The next two parts of the series, published later this week, will focus on economic development and crime.

You may read part 1, focusing on traffic and transportation, at this link.