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Homebuyer Help to Target Struggling Nashville Neighborhoods

Downtown Nashville (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

A new incentive to help first-time homebuyers with down payments is breaking with tradition to target Nashville neighborhoods slow to recover from the recession.

The program will make $15,000 available per homebuyer, The Tennessean reports. It’s administered by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA), and originated in the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund — and will be offered to “modest and low-income homebuyers” in select ZIP codes across the state. In Nashville, that means one- and two-person households earning up to $82,000 and larger households earning up to $96,000.

“For all the good things happening in Nashville … areas of our community have not shared fully in the city’s success,” Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said at a news conference Wednesday, adding the program “will help strengthen and stabilize some of those areas and actually encourage people to make a homeownership investment there,” according to The Tennessean.

The Hardest Hit Fund, or HHF, was created in 2010 to help Americans struggling to pay home mortgages. Congress added $2 billion to the program last year. But there have been some questions as to whether it actually helps the “hardest hit.” In an investigation (the results of which were released last month), federal financial watchdog SIGTARP found that 80 percent of the people in Detroit, Flint, Cleveland and Dayton who were turned down for HHF funds earned less than $30,000 a year.

“When we see that nearly everyone turned down for TARP’s Hardest Hit Fund unemployment assistance earned less than $30,000 in cities where GM or its suppliers laid off workers, we know that the program can do more to open up funding to these and other hard hit workers,” a spokesperson for the investigation said.

Many residents and officials alike in Nashville are worried about affordable housing and displacement. As Margaret Littman reported for Next City in 2014, the city’s low cost of living (compared to national figures) was a factor in drawing companies there. But with population growth comes higher housing demand, and Nashville has been testing programs to spur development of more affordable housing.