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Shelbyville’s rental problem

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 6/13/23

Several threats to Bedford County's growth were discussed during a Wednesday meeting with Tennessee Valley Authority representatives for the “Connected Communities” initiative. Chiefly, …

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Shelbyville’s rental problem


Several threats to Bedford County's growth were discussed during a Wednesday meeting with Tennessee Valley Authority representatives for the “Connected Communities” initiative. Chiefly, Shelbyville’s housing crisis can be traced to the lack of affordable, reliable housing and the rise of higher-end housing.

This is especially seen among Shelbyville’s rentals.

Councilman Henry Feldhaus, who attended the meeting explained, “We have several landlords that sort of focus on rehabbing old houses. But they have gone to a weekly rental structure.”

This is mainly because if someone gets behind on their rent, it takes them only three weeks to get out of the house instead of three months, like if they’re on a monthly rental. For the judicial system, tenants have to miss three payments to be evicted. However, Tristan Call with the Bedford County Listening Project said they have seen renters evicted for missing a single payment. “Go to General sessions on Wednesdays at 1:15 p.m., and you’ll see people getting evicted,” he said.

“That’s the economics of the rental business,” said Feldhaus. “What that happens to do is those that can only afford a week’s rent happen to migrate here because we have the houses here…That to me is a big drag on our economy and demographics here.”

Call said there are more on this weekly rental system than what you might see in a bigger city. But they have seen a trend in some moving away from the weekly payments because they were evicted.

And rent prices continue to soar. Studies show Tennessee’s rent has increased by 38% since 2020, with states like Colorado and Florida experiencing the highest increase at over 45%.

Zoning Director Chris White said, “I’m not making the statement that we have plenty of rental units and affordable housing for the middle class, but we have an abundance of it for, let’s say, less than the middle class.”

White added that Shelbyville has had a great public housing program for a long time and therefore has been a “magnet” for other communities to come here.

For Shelbyville, often the rentals don’t have the upgraded fixtures of a typical new home.

“Based on the people that we have in that business, I would say very few of them are upgrading mechanical systems,” said White.

Installing the least efficient fixtures is also a drain on utility departments.

From visiting and talking with tenants, he said they see leaks through roofs, which destroy units. For example, recently Bedford Manor in Building 4, a leak in the roof flooded a tenant’s stove. Then with spring and summer in full swing, hot temperatures cause mold.

It’s also common to see HVAC units that don’t work, inefficient windows, broken fridges, and bad insulation.

“If maintenance fixes it, it’s a major win-win for both the tenant and the landlord,” Call said.

But conditions continue to worsen, according to Call.

Often, investment firms from out of state buy up properties here in Shelbyville and look for land appreciation, meaning they care about property values increasing so they can turn around and sell the land in five years for a profit. This gives landlords little incentive to take care of the property as the buildings could be demolished. Call said this is a trend they are seeing at the Listening Project.

He added they’ve seen where these firms are spending five to ten times more on marketing, building advertisements and websites, instead of maintenance.

“For people who have never rented in Shelbyville, if they were to look at the conditions of some of the rentals in Shelbyville, they would be shocked and outraged,” said Call.