Metro’s Investment In Public Housing Overhaul Raises Questions | Nashville Public Radio

Metro’s Investment In Public Housing Overhaul Raises Questions

May 17, 2019

Nashville’s housing authority has claimed for years that its ambitious plan to overhaul public housing could be done almost exclusively with private financing. But now, the city is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the project. And the move has some officials worried it could leave Metro on the hook for even more.

The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency had never given a firm timeline or price tag on the massive initiative—only that the land was valuable enough to pay for itself without city tax dollars and the outcome would be 5,000 new affordable units.

But then, six weeks ago the city announced plans to give the agency $35 million a year for the next 10 years.

Councilman Bob Mendes has long wondered if MDHA could pull off the plan, known as Envision.

And the pivot has him worried that the city has gone from a cheerleader to an investor with little, if any, due diligence.

"It’s an acknowledgment of what some insiders have felt for a while," Mendes says. "Which is that MDHA really wasn’t going to be able to pull off the Envision projects on their own, or at least not very quickly."  

Now, Mendes wonders, if $350 million is even enough to finish.

"What we all deserve as citizens though, is a no nonsense real life, 'What’s it gonna take?'"

However, Jim Harbison, MDHA’s chief executive, says the Metro money bears no significance on the fiscal health of the Envision projects.

"We're fully capable of rebuilding our aging properties," Harbison says. "But...it's a marathon." 

He says the money will speed up the timeline and add another 1,000 units of affordable housing.