KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knoxville Association of Realtors reports home sales dropped more than 15% last month which is the lowest October home sales figure since 2017.

The association’s government affairs and policy director, Hancen Sale, says the change in mortgage rates from 3% to 7% is playing a key factor and demand isn’t down because people don’t want to buy a home, it’s just simply tough to afford one.

However, Friday, many Knoxville and Knox County groups came together for the All4Knox Affordable and Workforce Housing Summit to come up with game plans to avoid a housing disaster.

“Affordable housing has been a need,” Freedom Investment Group President Katie Linkous said. “But with the housing market we’ve experienced and coming out on the other side of that, I think we are only at the beginning of what can be detrimental to our community if we don’t get ahead of it with a solution.”

“Housing is essential to people’s sense of safety, health, and stability and so I’m really appreciating all the people who came together tonight to focus on what we can do better in Knoxville,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said.

“The city and county do a phenomenal job at trying to meet this need but there’s only so much they can do,” Linkous said. “I think faith-based organizations, philanthropic organizations, non-profits do a great job, but they’re limited as well. Private investors can only do so much. When we realize what we each can bring to the table, then we’re able to meet a greater need.”

Knoxville’s tight housing market is a delicate ecosystem and, according to some, the average household spends 50% of its income on housing. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, families paying over 30% of their monthly income on housing are defined as cost-burdened, and a severe rent burden is paying over 50% of one’s monthly income on rent.

Linkous said, “As an investor, I really try to encourage our partners, how can this property make sense the way you bought it so that we don’t have to raise rents significantly to cover interest rates and higher property taxes and all the expenses we’ve all incurred that unfortunately have to be handed off to a tenant? How can we not hand that off to a tenant? What can we do creatively to try to solve for that instead of just raising rent?”

As those at the summit bounced ideas off each other, it was also an opportunity to learn more about section 8 vouchers. Currently, there are about 5,000 families receiving assistance.

“The wait is significant,” Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation CEO Ben Bentley said. “I mean it takes a long time. There are limited resources. We want to serve as many people as we can but obviously the resources don’t exist to serve everyone right now. If we don’t continue to build our prices will continue to increase as the market gets tighter and tighter.”

“Unfortunately wages haven’t increased at the same rate rents have,” Linkous said. “And so, while we’re asking more for rent, people can’t afford it. And there has to be a balance there where we cover costs as investors but still provide affordable housing.”