Neighborhoods at risk of gentrification could use overlay ordinances

Neighborhoods at risk of gentrification could use overlay ordinances (Image 1)

Metro Nashville’s Council passed an ordinance in May that allows neighbors to get a contextual overlay applied to their neighborhoods.

The overlay would require new construction to match the style and size of existing homes in the area.

Homeowners in Nashville’s most popular neighborhoods are now receiving letters and mailings offering to buy their homes, even if their homes are not for sale.

Many of the homes, once they are sold, are torn down and replaced by bigger, more expensive and newly constructed homes.

The style and size of these homes, however, do not always match with the existing look and size of the houses around them.

Tommy Wright’s family has lived in their east Nashville home for 50 years. He gets unsolicited offers to buy his home at least three or four times a week.

“Everybody is sending the letters and saying, ‘We want to buy your house,’” he said. “They say, ‘We will give you the highest price for it.’”

Wright has no intention of selling his home.

“I just tear them up and throw them away as soon as I get them,” he added. “It is just a waste of paper to me.”

But many of Wright’s neighbors did sell their homes.

Across the street, there are two new, large homes, and next door is a new home, and two doors down a single home was replaced by a three-story duplex.

“It is so big and everything else. It knocks out the neighborhood look around here,” Wright said. “Anybody will tell you who lives in one of these old homes.”

Protecting the way a neighborhood looks was part of the reasoning behind the contextual overlay District 3 Councilman Walter Hunt introduced and got passed by Metro Council in May.

“We had gotten so many calls and the planning commission had gotten a lot calls about these strange looking houses that didn’t match anything in neighborhood,” Councilman Hunt said. “The law within itself would say you can build, but you have to build along the same lines of what is already there.”

Any neighborhood can apply for a contextual overlay with the help of their Metro council member.

According to the Metro Planning Department, the overlay limits the height and footprint of construction to a percentage of the average of the existing, surrounding structures. The overlay also states the placement of new structures must be in context with the existing structures.

It also has some design requirements for driveways, parking and garage locations.

Councilman Hunt told News 2 regulating the look and amount of construction is important as neighborhoods change.

He also said the construction raises concerns about gentrification.

“They were buying so much, they were displacing a lot of people elderly people as well,” Hunt explained. That’s were gentrification comes in.”

He continued, “It can be a good thing because it can help decrease crime and increase property values. Critics say it prices longtime residents of a neighborhood out of their homes.”

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