By Janita Hendricks, Student at Middle Tennessee State University
Nashville, Tennessee has seen exponential growth in the past decade and is oftentimes referred to as the “IT” city. A growing city can be exciting for locals and is often great for economic growth, but what happens when that growth pushes long-term residents out of their neighborhoods to build new and overpriced homes? As property values rise in the growing city, residents are being pressured to sell their homes. Rising rent and forced evictions due to rapid development are just a few of challenges facing low-income Nashvillians. The easiest term to describe what’s going on is displacement, and one can’t speak about displacement without talking about gentrification.
Edgehill and the 12th Avenue South neighborhoods have experienced troubling patterns of displacement compared to most communities in Nashville. Edgehill is in close proximity to Nashville’s famous Music Row, Belmont University, The Gulch, and surrounded by cafes and fashion boutiques. The neighborhood looks much different today than in the 1950s when it was filled with black businesses and a vibrant black middle class. Due to years of construction and rezoning, that familiarity no longer exists and long-time residents are still feeling the impact and repercussions today. According the Edgehill State of Emergency report released by Homes For All, black homeowners who still live in Edgehill feel pressured to sell their properties due to an increase in land-use value and property taxes.
In addition, renters including those in Edgehill feel the squeeze of a political culture that seems to accelerate displacement. Over 70% of people living in Edgehill in 2010 were renters. Without rent control and anti-displacement measures, private landlords have been able to raise rent at any time and by any amount, and renters often don’t have a reasonable amount of time to find somewhere else to live. Many Edgehill residents are working class and the minimum wage is lower today than it was decades ago when accounting for cost-of-living demands.
With the average rent for a two bedroom apartment in Edgehill being almost $1200, displaced residents have few options given the shortage of affordable housing. The Edgehill State of Emergency report claims that public housing has a waiting list of more than 700 people, and Section 8 housing has a waitlist of more than 11,000. The racial makeup of Edgehill is also changing with more white renters and homeowners moving into the neighborhood, while black renters and homeowners are being pushed out. Longtime residents of Edgehill want to see beautiful and diverse additions to their communities, but they certainly don’t want to be pushed out as part of the neighborhood revitalization process.