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Serious housing crisis in Middle Tennessee addressed

by PRIDE Newsdesk
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by Justin Darden

A group of Middle Tennessee residents and community leaders gathered in the rural Middle Tennessee town of Shelbyville to address a serious housing issue that has been plaguing residents and city officials. Findings of a report detailing the housing problems residents were experiencing were addressed at a hearing on August 26.

The hearing, organized by Bedford County Listening Project, was held on the Public Square in Shelbyville during the Walking Horse Celebration where local government officials, local housing advocates, and community leaders were invited with the public for the presentation of the report entitled ‘Defending Our Homes: Addressing the Housing Human Rights Crisis in Middle Tennessee.’ The report examined the housing crisis in Shelbyville, where the cost of renting an apartment had increased 31% in 2022. The BCLP surveyed more than 1,000 renter households in Shelbyville, held conversations with residents and conducted over 170 interviews with residents. It was discovered that 84% of renters said they were having a difficult time finding safe and affordable housing. The report also said that 57% of renters said they were experiencing health problems due to unsafe health conditions.

According to the report, apartment rents in Shelbyville were increasing. Increasing rent prices were caused by the housing market bubble in Nashville and other cities in Middle Tennessee. The average rent in 2022 was $715, but the rent in 2023 had increased to $935, a 31% increase. It’s expected to increase over time unless state and federal government officials take action. The report also said Shelbyville landlords were not making necessary repairs.

Landlords of apartment complexes had a tendency to make their own rules for tenants, which was highlighted by a 2020 report that detailed how the culture of non-enforcement enabled landlords in Shelbyville to make their own rules for tenants while city officials did not take action. The report also said that renters made claims of being harassed, threatened, and disrespected by their landlords. The report had discovered that 27% of renters said they were treated unfairly in eviction court. The report showed there was a need for legal resources to help renters with eviction issues.

The report also addressed the issue of renters who had a hard time renting an apartment because of race, gender, sexuality, family and disability. The initial survey indicated there were violations of the Fair Housing Act. Renters who experienced racial discrimination said the race of the apartment manager or maintenance crews often determine which tenants received fair treatment. Also, media discourses about race and complex policies in neighborhoods caused division and distrust of racial groups making it more difficult for renters to find common understanding. Racial favoritism also reflected the imbalance of power between tenants and landlords.

During a meeting of the Shelbyville City Council on September 14, a resolution passed calling on the Federal Housing Finance Agency to adopt rules that would protect tenants living in properties with federally backed mortgages.

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