In the trending Nashville market, the Barnes Fund makes affordable housing possible

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Posted at 8:10 PM, May 19, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Council agreed to offer more than $9 million in affordable housing and that has us digging deeper into how this money is used.

Alan Mazer serves as General Counsel for Urban Housing Solutions and says while the goal is to make cost-friendly homes, people have always been the priority. That means building affordable, but also attractive homes.

“You have got to make it housing that people want to live in,” Mazer said.

We met at 26th and Clarksville in Nashville where we found three of their 30 properties. Here there about 146 units between these three buildings with rent as low as $625 a month. There’s a bank attached to one side and a clinic.

“We could be charging hundreds of dollars more than what we’re charging, but because we’ve been very we’ve been able to stretch the dollars we have to produce what I think is an asset to the neighborhood,” Mazer said.

Mazer still recalls when these relatively new buildings were nothing more than burnt eye-sores for the North Nashville community. He says it took hundreds of thousands of dollars to clear the lots, before laying the foundation.

The same lot now, he predicts could be out of their price range as developers from around the country scramble to buy up property in Nashville. As a resident of Nashville, Mazer is excited about what it means for the city. As someone working to develop affordable homes, he says it’s been a challenge.

“What you have is the property going on the market and the minute it goes on the market, you’ve got investors from coast to coast willing to throw money at a project simply to have the name Nashville in front of it,” Mazer said.

Mazer now competes for land by proposing to the landowners that if they sell the property to Urban Housing Solutions, they’re contributing to the solution and not the problem. Many have been receptive to the idea, while others have been harder to convince. The next issue is financing and that’s where the Barnes Fund makes a difference.

Metro Council’s commitment of more than $9.4 million from the Barnes Fund is split between seven non-profits who all specialize in affordable housing. Urban Housing Solutions will get $2 million. Now instead of asking a bank for a loan to cover 100 percent of a $10 million property, they ask for 80 percent or even less.

“By the time we sold some bonds and had that money available to us that did not have to be paid back, it became we were borrowing 60 percent of the value of the property. Now you’re talking about numbers that bankers understand,” Mazer said.

Urban Housing Solutions intends to use this funding to "redevelop Mercury Courts on Murfreesboro Pike into a mixed-income, transit oriented community anchor and spur additional redevelopment."

Affordable Housing Resources: To complete the Lanier Park Townhomes, located near Neelys Bend Road in Madison, for 31 first-time home buyers and seniors looking to downsize.

Be A Helping Hand Foundation: To develop two, four-bedroom rental units for women and children.

Habitat for Humanity: To support a new development near Brick Church Pike in North Nashville, which will provide homes for 32 families.

Samaritan Recovery Community: To create 195 new units in a mixed-income community on South Fourth Street and Shelby Avenue.

Woodbine Community Organization: To build 67 new units for local neighbors on 40th Avenue. North in West Nashville and Elysian Fields Road in South Nashville.

This isn’t money offered for the first time, it’s money that Mazer agrees couldn’t have come at a better time. Developments across Nashville are projected to bring thousands to Music City and this money will help ensure everyone has a place to stay.