Landlord Helps Renters Break Poverty Cycle

LA VERGNE - When Brittney Long moved to Middle Tennessee from Jackson, Tenn., last year, she was surprised at the cost of renting an apartment. Over the past two years, rent prices have jumped more than 50 percent from $880 to $1,350 from 2014 to 2016 for a two-bedroom apartment in Davidson County, according to data from "I would probably have to get a second job to afford rent in Davidson County," said Long, who works as an access-specialist coordinator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After searching, she found a home for herself and three children at Rutherford Pointe Townhomes in La Vergne.The townhomes are owned by Nashville-based Highmark Holdings, which specializes in affordable housing funded by Tennessee Housing Development Agency bonds and other tax credits, company President Robbie King explained. Long said she was lucky to find a rent-stable apartment in Middle Tennessee, especially one that offers the support that Rutherford Pointe does.Instead of just keeping rental costs low, Highmark Holdings and property management company, Enfield Management, have added a distinctive service for its residents, a resident program coordinator, who will help residents connect with nonprofits and other programs. "We have direct interaction with 1,600 low income families in Tennessee," King said about Highmark Holdings' nine apartment complexes in the state."I can't imagine not doing everything I can to give them a safe and affordable place to live and give them the tools to live," he continued. "It's the right thing to do."Because of how the financing is structured, Highmark Holdings is required to keep the units' rent affordable, but the company takes its responsibility a step further, King said.The company recently added Alexis Lewis as resident-program coordinator. In her new job, Lewis is charged with coordinating programs and partnering with nonprofits to provide services to the residents of the complex. "We want to improve the quality of life of our residents by connecting them with the community," Lewis said. King said residents are restricted to families that earn less than 60 percent of the area's median income. In the Nashville metropolitan statistical area, of which Rutherford County is a part, is about $45,000."This is workforce housing," King said, explaining only a small percentage of the residents receive Section 8 vouchers. "A majority do not receive government assistance directly."