Nashville is undergoing a rapid multi billion-dollar construction boom that shows little signs of slowing down. Believing that a rising tide lifts all boats, our city has adopted a pro-growth agenda and handed away millions of local tax dollars to fuel this economic development. For example, the Old Convention Center was sold seemingly under market value at $5 million up front and an additional $6.25 million over 25 years. Even with the discounted price tag, the city also offered developers a $25 million tax increment financing loan and a $32 million taxpayer funded parking garage.
With every project, our city has justified the millions of dollars our city trades with promises of an improved economy for all. But after years of development, most Nashvillians haven’t seen the benefits of their tax investments. Despite having an unemployment rate of only 3.6%, rates of poverty are soaring. Almost one out of every five people in Nashville is living in poverty. The city should leverage our huge investments to private developers to create high-quality, middle-class jobs. For example, we should not give private developers millions of public dollars to build a new hotel that will pay Nashville workers poverty wages. We can align the city’s workforce development programs with opportunities created by new developments to build pathways to the middle class for Nashville’s working poor.
These millions of local tax dollars have been invested in private development projects without parallel investments in Nashville families and communities. As Nashville has boomed, rents have increased dramatically alongside rates of poverty. There is an affordable housing crisis in our city that threatens to displace thousands of hard-working Nashvillians who do not earn enough to live in the new Nashville. Affordable housing must be part of the city’s investment and development strategy, not just handouts to private developers.