Tennessee has some of the most far-reaching state laws overwriting local policies on things like minimum wage, paid sick time and affordable housing, according to a new study from the Partnership for Working Families.
And some experts say Tennessee’s effort to put the interests of business first on such issues could actually slow Nashville’s growth. Especially when it comes to affordable housing.
Last year, Tennessee lawmakers voted to ban local governments from implementing something called "inclusionary zoning," a wonky term that encourages developers to build lower-cost housing though incentives or mandates.
Christopher Serkin, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in land use in local government, says it’s hard to believe that Tennessee wants to thwart new housing strategies.
“This looks to me like pure political capture by the development industry,” Serkin says.
But affordable housing, in Nashville and beyond, is an urgent policy issue, and Serkin says this kind of pre-emption law is misguided and stalls creativity, putting Tennessee at a competitive disadvantage to other states that don’t have similar legislation but do have growing cities — think Austin, Charlotte, Seattle.
“In this world, it just seems crazy to me for the state to eliminate one potential tool that a city like Nashville might try to experiment with,” he says.
According to Serkin, the cities that best manage the housing cost problem are the cities that will “win this competition in the long run.”