Middle Tennessee Zoning Policies Contributing To Unaffordable Housing

Image Credit: Beacon Center of Tennessee

The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –

After finding housing affordability is the most pressing issue for Tennesseans through its 2022 listening tour, Beacon Center has developed and released an atlas of Tennessee zoning requirements that highlight how the state has become unaffordable for the average person in Middle Tennessee.

Local and state policies have contributed to an environment where housing prices have outpaced the median income.

“Tennesseans, whether renting an apartment or trying to buy their first house, are dealing with record rising home costs, particularly in Middle Tennessee,” said Beacon Policy Director Ron Shultis. “And while most point to record growth and people moving into our community to explain higher costs, one cause has escaped criticism: zoning. Through lines drawn on a map, local governments arbitrarily limit the supply of housing, especially more affordable options like accessory dwelling units (such as in-law suites), duplexes, and multi-family housing.”

The report, which includes a full housing atlas, shows that multi-family housing like apartments are banned on 94% of Middle Tennessee land and duplexes are banned on 59% of land. Only 11% of Nashville allows apartments while Maury County allows affordable housing on 96% of land while Forest Hills, Brentwood, and Sumner County effectively ban them.

“Both state and local policymakers should enact pro-housing reforms to make Tennessee cities a more welcoming and affordable place for low and middle-income residents,” Shultis said. “By passing pro-housing reforms such as reducing the restrictions on ADUs and allowing more mixed-use and multi-family development, policymakers can increase the supply of homes and drive down costs.”

Accessible dwelling units, such as mother-in-law suites, are allowed on 57.8% of Middle Tennessee land while ADUs can be rented to non-family members on just 34% of land.

“With Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee specifically, experiencing large in-migration as people flee high-tax states, zoning exacerbates the problems that have led to record housing cost increases,” the report says. “While there is understandably a concern over affordable housing in Middle Tennessee, the cause of this affordable housing crisis is often misplaced. Only through reforming the arbitrary red tape of zoning codes can we solve this government-created crisis.”

About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.

2 thoughts on “Middle Tennessee Zoning Policies Contributing To Unaffordable Housing

  • June 6, 2023 at 5:43 pm

    BUNK!!! Certain communities want to maintain their single family homes with a minimum size lot character and no provision for affordable housing they should continue to do so.

    Getting too crowded and too expensive? Stop subsidizing companies with hundreds, if not thousands of employees to move to the most crowded portions of the state with taxpayer money.

  • June 6, 2023 at 7:18 pm

    This is a very Fascist / Leftist / Dem idea.

    I agree with Stuart – if there’s a housing shortage, do 3 things >

    1. STOP recruiting businesses who bring in thousands of apartments and drive up the cost of housing.

    2. Encourage people to work from home. People who work from home can live anywhere, including rural areas.

    3. Stop allowing in millions of illegals who compete with American citizens for housing and drive up prices.


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