Ellen Mahurin’s Nashville suburban townhouse is a classic 1980s build with two spacious bedrooms upstairs. But she is sleeping on her sofa because there is not enough room for her and her two teenagers.

“I needed to find him pretty soon after my husband and I parted ways,” she said. “And it’s two bedrooms. So this is my bed.

A year and a half ago, she was paying about $ 1,200 in rent. She could afford it, she said, with a salary of $ 80,000 as a freelance animal behavior consultant. Now that she’s a full-time receptionist earning just over $ 15 an hour, rent is about half of her income.

She’d like to buy, but the median home price in Nashville is $ 480,000, according to Greater Nashville Realtors. Mahurin said she couldn’t afford it.

Nashville, like many cities across the country, is a vibrant real estate market. June report of the mayor’s task force on affordable housing found that conditions make buying a home difficult for people with little capital.

The housing shortage also makes it difficult for individual tenants to become buyers, according to Ken Chilton, associate professor at Tennessee State University.

“You can’t save for a down payment to take advantage of the programs that might be there for low-income households, just because you don’t have the income available to do it,” he said.

One of the reasons homes are out of reach is that out-of-state investors are heading south and southeast.

Chilton said his research found that five real estate investment firms owned more than 5% of the single-family housing stock in Rutherford County, just outside of Nashville. Four in five of these businesses are from out of state.

In some neighborhoods, these businesses own nearly 50% of single-family homes built since 2000; this count does not include other properties such as condos and Airbnbs.

Nashville is not alone. Chilton said the inventory of single-family homes is tight across the country.

“So all of this on the demand side means there is more capital looking for X number of housing units,” he said. “On the supply side, we did not catch up with demand after 2008.”

Nashville officials say they are working with neighboring governments to think about local solutions. But they have limited financial resources.


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