Nashville Organized for Action and Hope held its annual meeting Sunday to list its requests to officials. Much of it focused on helping fund programs like affordable housing, better pay for school support staff and faster help for those facing eviction.
One of the group’s asks is that Nashville use some of the $260 million in American Cares Rescue Act money the city will receive to fund affordable housing.
Steve Venick, a member of NOAH’s affordable housing task force, says there’s barely anywhere left for families of modest means to live.
“I have seen this firsthand in my day job as a disaster case manager when it has far too often been impossible to find affordable housing in Nashville proper for displaced March 2020 tornado and March 2021 flood survivors,” Venick said.
Metro Councilmember Sandra Sepulveda says the city is going to allocate between $20 million and $25 million for affordable housing programs. Going forward, NOAH asks that the mayor find a dedicated and recurring funding stream so that the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing receives at least $30 million annually.
Mayor John Cooper, who was in attendance virtually, agreed to this while citing his commitment to financing the fund thus far while in office.
The nearly two-hour meeting also included a question-and-answer session with Metro Schools board chair Christiane Buggs, who represents East and parts of North Nashville.
Superintendent Adrienne Battle was unable to make the meeting, NOAH said. So Buggs was asked if she would encourage Battle to engage with the group regularly to “reduce and eliminate the racial disparities in school discipline and advanced academics.” Buggs said she will.
She also agreed to have Metro Schools share ongoing, up-to-date data with the public regarding those disparities in academics and discipline and said that she will support a board resolution to develop an action plan to eliminate racial disparities.
Calls for transparency came up elsewhere, especially in the form of a proposed online dashboard that would show how public money is spent.
Mayor Cooper brought up his office’s existing service level and cost monitoring dashboards as well as his four-year commitment tracker, referring to the transparency as “the heart and soul of what we’re trying to get done down here.”
“I’d love it if you go look at our dashboard and tell us how to improve,” Cooper said.
NOAH commended the efforts so far, but urged the mayor to do more.