Tension was thick Tuesday as dozens of community members, advocates, and developer representatives discussed the future of affordable housing at RiverChase apartments.
The new owners, Texas-based Cypress Real Estate Advisors, presented the details of what they say is a legally binding community benefits agreement with the Urban League of Middle Tennessee. The agreement, enforced by a 30-year deed restriction on the property, commits 225 affordable units in the 1,150-unit development that will replace RiverChase.
The 225 affordable units will include:
- 25 unsubsidized units at 120% AMI
- 100 units at 80% AMI (including 80 unsubsidized units)
- 50 units at 60% AMI
- 50 units at or below 60% AMI
Members of the East Nashville community at the meeting spoke of hurt and concern as they waited to hear the fate of their housing security.
The 212-unit McFerrin Park apartment complex was protected by low-income housing tax credits until around 2017. Though rent returned to market rates, the units remained an accessible option near downtown for people with evictions on their records or other barriers to traditional housing.
The Urban League will oversee the developer’s compliance with affordability, legacy rights, and construction. The agreement will take effect on Sept. 6, 2022.
Housing advocates:RiverChase residents’ search for housing emblematic of citywide shortage
CREA details unit affordability commitments
A total of 120 units will be offered for those making 30%, 60%, and 80% of the Area Median Income through nonprofit and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit partnerships. Of those, 36 units will be two- and three-bedroom units.
The remaining 105 units will be integrated workforce housing units without subsidy, including 25 units at 120% AMI and 80 units at 80% AMI. Ten units will be three-bedroom, and 30 units will be two-bedroom.
The developer will also offer a “legacy residents” initiative that would allow qualifying RiverChase residents to live in the new development. To be a legacy resident, one would have to have paid their rent consecutively for one year prior to the change in ownership.
RiverChase:Deal reached promising 225 units of affordable housing at RiverChase site
Of the 175 residents who were on site when CREA acquired the property, 50 qualify for the legacy program, the developer said. Tenant-based Section 8 vouchers will be accepted only for legacy residents.
But local housing advocates say RiverChase residents likely won’t be able to afford to move into the new units, even those deemed “affordable” by federal AMI standards. The average income of current RiverChase leaseholders is about $26,000, according to community advocates.
For affordable units, rent would be capped at 30% of a resident’s annual income, including utilities and renter’s insurance. For example, a resident making 61% AMI ($57,523 for a family of four) could be charged a maximum of $1,496 per month for a three-bedroom apartment.
Rents are capped based on AMI and number of bedrooms, so a six-person household at 80% AMI would have the same maximum rent for a three-bedroom unit as a four-person household at 80% AMI for the same three-bedroom unit.
Housing advocates say concerns remain
Community members said they would rather CREA tear down the buildings, rebuild, and make all of the units affordable. Developers say that’s not financially possible.
“The cost of tearing down buildings and building them back … it just is not economically feasible,” said Edward Henley, principal of Pillars Development.
A coalition of the local union and community groups spearheaded by Stand Up Nashville began negotiations with CREA for a community benefits agreement in March. But by July, the conversation reached an impasse over the depth of unit affordability CREA was willing to offer.
“We really would like the community to know that there was a real agreement on the table, and CREA chose to walk away from the agreement for someone who was going to allow them to do whatever they wanted to do,” said Tamika White, director of programs for the Equity Alliance, part of the East Bank Coalition group.
There are still 11 families living in the apartment complex with personalized move-out dates. CREA said they are not evicting any current leaseholders but families claimed representatives have knocked on their doors telling them that they have 24 hours to vacate premises.
CREA is offering $2,200 in moving assistance for all current leaseholders of RiverChase. Legacy residents have until the end of 2026 to move into the new development if they so choose.
A zoning bill connected to the project is scheduled for a public hearing at Metro Council’s Aug. 2 meeting.
Buildings will be released for demolition in groups of four or five, with the first round scheduled for Aug. 5
Arcelia Martin contributed.