We Didn’t Want to Sue You Nashville, But You Gave Us No Choice


April 25, 2017 9:37AM

We tried to keep it from coming to this. We warned them. Twice, actually. And it is not the first time we have been involved in this issue. Not long ago, we joined in a request to have the Supreme Court rule on inclusionary zoning. They didn’t, but Justice Thomas went out of his way to urge lawyers to bring a better case so they could. We didn’t exactly want to be those lawyers, but we had to be as Nashville’s coercive inclusionary zoning law remains poised to go into effect in June.

Today we formally filed suit. I’ve talked about it at length in the blog I linked above, but essentially inclusionary zoning means that if Nashville is going to change zoning so a homebuilder can begin a project, the homebuilder must sell or rent a certain percentage of their homes at an affordable rate, “affordable” meaning some government-fixed price as determined in the bowels of Nashville’s bureaucracy by a person I’d like to imagine with an abacus.

Now, I’d explain to you exactly what that price is but: a) it isn’t important; the point is it’s less than market rate; b) you’d hate it if I tried; and, c) I am not sure I can. Seriously, this is what it looks like:


This is unbelievably irritating. Now imagine you are a homebuilder trying to plan out a project. Not only do you have to lose money on some number of your homes, you have to make sense of this mess. Has it occurred to you that, beyond what the actual number is, the arbitrariness of all of these numbers is all disguised by their complexity? Why does “60% MHI or less” mean “10% of total residential floor unit” for multifamily uses of 3 – 6 stories but not seven or more stories. Who knows? You never stop to ask because you are still trying to work out the math. I’m guessing the surrounding counties — where it’s already cheaper to build — are starting to look better and better. This American Studies major has gone to far greater lengths to avoid complex math in my life.

Inclusionary zoning is supposed to be about creating more affordable housing options in Nashville, but it only incentivizes going to the next county over. It’s a gesture. It’s counterproductive, but at least it gives city government an unprecedented amount of control over someone else’s private property. In pursuit of this gesture, Nashville has decided that neither the Constitution nor the State of Tennessee can stop it. That’s why there’s a lawsuit.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.