Comparing two artistic markets: Nashville, Austin

Friday, January 13, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 2
By Colleen Creamer

A two-bedroom Nashville apartment rents for an average of $1,400 a month, according to the December 2016 National Apartment List Rent Report.

That’s a 3.8 percent hike compared to December 2015 places Nashville at No. 14 on the list of fastest-rising rents in the nation. Tacoma, Washington, is No. 1 with a whopping 9.7 percent one-year increase.

Nashville mayor Megan Barry introduced in June a program meant to incentivize developers to create more affordable housing.

“We want to target this growth in the urban core which has seen the greatest impact of soaring housing prices in recent years, as well as along our pikes and corridors which are targeted for mass transit options now and in the future,” Barry said in a statement.

But other costs, including buying a house and the cost of basic needs, may also be outpacing other mid-sized cities.

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce “2016 Vital Signs Report’’ uses data from the National Association of Realtors and calculates rankings on the affordability of different Metropolitan statistical areas similar in size. It charts whether families earned enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on an average home.

Among key Metropolitan areas, the Nashville MSA’s median housing price, according to the Chamber’s data, is now lower only to that of Denver, Raleigh and Austin.

Often, Austin and Nashville are compared because they are similar in size, are both state capitals and home to numerous colleges and universities. They also have large numbers of artists and musicians.

Some on community forums are derisively stating Nashville is “becoming Austin” given its rising rents and cost of living.

However, the cost of living in Austin is still 7 percent higher than in Nashville, according to “Sperlings Best Places,” a website that compares cost-of-living, crime rates and school rankings of cities.

Like Nashville, Greater Austin is the cultural and economic center of its Metropolitan area, which had an estimated population of 1,883,051 as of July 1, 2013, close to that of Nashville, which has an estimated population of 1,830,345.

A person would have to make $31,040 to maintain their current standard of living in Austin if they were making $30,000 in Nashville.

However, groceries are more expensive in Nashville because of the Nashville’s sales tax rates, which is at 9.25 percent.

But the cost of buying a house in Austin is notably costlier, 21 percent higher than what is costs to buy a similar house in Nashville.

The 14-county Nashville Metro statistical area (MSA), according to U.S. census data, gained 30,875 people a year in the five-year-period leading up to 2015, which is twice the national growth rate.

The “moving here daily” rate varies anywhere from 65 a day to 100 per day depending on who is talking.

Across the 10-county Cumberland Region around Nashville, the Metro Planning Organization forecasts close to another million people moving here by 2035.

Nashville is growing faster than similar cities such as Raleigh, Indianapolis, Louisville and Memphis. Still Music City trails Austin, Denver and Charlotte, which are adding 148, 140 and 109 people a day, respectively.

A report, Equitable Development Promising Practices to Maximize Affordablity and Minimize Displacement in Nashville’s Urban Core, was commissioned by NashvilleNext in response to concerns of affordable housing and gentrification in Nashville.

The report states that the redevelopment of the 12South neighborhood “serves as a powerful demonstration” in that between 2000 and 2012, 12South experienced a 269 percent increase in average housing costs and a 58 percent decrease in that area’s African American population.

Vanderbilt University professor Dr. James Fraser, who headed the study, says managing the city’s growth must come from an effort between the city and developers and must have an element that makes it compulsory.

“It’s voluntary, first of all. The development community and the Chamber (the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce) did not want it to be mandatory that developers had to build certain levels of affordability into their projects,” Fraser says.

“Some have said that if the city forces them to build housing for artists, and others of low-to-moderate income, they would go elsewhere.”