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Mom, daughter team up to tackle lack of affordable housing for Nashville's senior citizens


71 year-old Frances Jones and her neighbors were forced to leave the senior independent living community after the property was sold to make way for new development. (Photo: WZTV){br}
71 year-old Frances Jones and her neighbors were forced to leave the senior independent living community after the property was sold to make way for new development. (Photo: WZTV)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- (WZTV) Cardboard boxes and stacks of furniture crowd 71-year-old Frances Jones’ apartment in Madison.

It’s the same price as her old apartment in the North Park Village senior citizen community, but half the size, and far less comfortable.

“It was convenient. It was neighborly. People cared about each other,” Jones said of her former home.

Jones and her neighbors were forced to leave the senior independent living community after the property was sold to make way for new development.

Jones says she and her elderly neighbors scrambled to find new homes within their modest budgets with just 60 days’ notice.

Many senior citizens like Jones live on fixed incomes, which often meet demands of rising inflation and rent prices.

“You work 30 and 40 years out here for this little money, and then when you get up to get that little money, it ain't nothing,” Jones said.

Jones says misses her old apartment, and especially misses the neighbors who became more like family.

“We had a lot of love,” Jones said.

Finding affordable independent living options for senior citizens is a growing problem, say advocates with AWAKE Nashville. https://www.weareawakenashville.org/welcome

The mom and daughter duo who started the organization realized the problem firsthand, when their mom and grandmother was displaced from the same senior community as Jones.

“We understand that development is going to happen, development is a part of growth. But what we don't want is for the development to leave out the most important fabric of our community, the foundation of our community, our seniors,” AWAKE co-founder Karen Holden said.

Holden and her daughter Danielle Cotton say the affordable housing gap for seniors boils down to three issues: affordability, availability, and accessibility.

Many seniors can’t apply for apartments because their social security checks don’t meet the income requirements many companies have in place, making most units unaffordable. There’s a lack of affordable housing, especially housing that’s geared toward senior citizens, which impacts availability. And of those units that are affordable and available, many senior citizens lack accessibility in finding those places.

“Most of the seniors didn't have access to Wi Fi, didn't have access to computers, didn't have access to information that if it is available, how can I get to it?” Holden said.

AWAKE is now partnering with a local real estate company to come up with new solutions for affordable independent senior living. They are working on a civic participation model that builds community support to develop affordable independent senior housing solutions.

They’re also calling on the community and local leaders to help them in their mission.

“We now want long term commitment to trying to find solutions to a big problem,” Cotton said.

Fox 17 News reached out to Metro planning asking what’s being done by the city to help with this issue.

A spokesperson says they are requesting $8 million in American Rescue Plan dollars to specifically target housing needs for older adults. The financial oversight committee is still considering that proposal.

"In addition to this effort, nonprofits may apply for Barnes funding to build or rehab housing for older adults. Also, we are in the process of hiring a Housing Response Coordinator. One of the initiatives this role will take on is convening an Older Adults Roundtable to coordinate and strengthen efforts focused on housing security for older adults," Richel Albright with the planning department said in a statement.

Holden and Cotton say public investments like this, coupled with community engagement and private donors, can help ensure senior citizens have a place to call home, regardless of their finances.

Metro Planning says the most recent Cencus data for Davidson County shows approximately 52.8% of seniors (65 years and older) are housing cost burdened, spending more than 30% of their gross income on housing costs. Nearly one-quarter (24.4%) of all senior homeowners are also cost-burdened.

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