NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — More landlords in Metro Nashville are leaving the affordable housing voucher programs, than there are willing to offer their help
It’s not easy using words like homeless for Latanja Rucker, but this has been life for Rucker since September. She's waiting on a call that says her voucher has been accepted and that her new home is on the way.
“It’s been hell. Half the time I don’t know which way I’m going to turn,” Rucker said.
The Madison apartment she was staying in is now under new management and no longer accepts Section 8 vouchers. Any other time Rucker could take the same voucher to another property, but she says it’s not that simple under these circumstances.
“They got a list of places. I called every last one of them. They don’t have any more bedrooms. They only have two bedrooms and up,” Rucker said.
Rucker’s caseworker helped her to apply for a two-bedroom unit, but that includes adding her name to one of many wait lists. In the meantime, Rucker stays with any family and friends willing to take her in.
Jamie Berry of the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency says there are one-bedroom units available, but applicants should prepare themselves for a wait.
“There are more landlords that are leaving the program than joining the program and that speaks to just Nashville and how the market has just blown up,” Berry said.
Berry and MDHA have been working on a solution for years. They converted 900 Section 8 vouchers into project-based vouchers for use in new developments. The developer gets the subsidies to pay for those units set aside and in return, Nashville gets more affordable homes.
“We’ve seen this help the market. Landlords who are building homes or apartments are willing to set aside maybe 60 of their 200 units for those project-based vouchers,” Berry said.
MDHA has opened up waitlists monthly for both MDHA properties and project-based vouchers, but Berry knows this will take a collaborative effort across the Metro. Click here to learn more about affordable housing programs in Metro Nashville.
Long-term success relies on getting more property owners to buy in. MDHA tries to entice landlords by explaining that this guarantees income because rent is paid for each voucher by MDHA. Berry then reminds landlords that this is a public service to their community.
"We're really pulling that and hoping that someone will consider it because of that reason," Berry said.
Nashville’s Affordable Housing Task Force report predicts that we need to create more than 5,250 affordable units per year to avoid a 50,000 unit shortage by 2030. On average, Metro creates about 1,350 units every year.
“There’s an affordable housing issue here in Nashville and MDHA is committed to that, but it’s going to take partners coming together,” Berry said.
On paper, affordable housing implies you spend no more than 30 percent of your annual income on rent or a mortgage according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. About 65,000 people exceeded that threshold in Metro Nashville pre-pandemic.
Affordable is much harder to find and that includes those trying to buy a house, where rarely anything is below $400,000. For Rucker, she’ll settle for a home. Whenever and wherever it may be.
If you’re looking for a housing voucher or if you or someone you know is a landlord willing to sign on, you can find out more information by visiting the MDHA site.