KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A group of Knoxville renters attended City Council’s meeting Tuesday night, asking the council to address rising rent prices and a lack of affordable housing.
Renters demonstrated outside the City County building holding signs and yelling chants before the meeting started. The meeting lasted over four hours, much of which was filled with renters expressing their concerns.
Hannah Freeman helped organize the demonstration, and said she’s lived in Knoxville her entire life.
“I’m a ninth-generation Knoxvillian. It’s driving us locals out that have been here for our entire lives. Our families have made Knoxville,” she said.
Freeman, like other renters, has been affected by raised rent prices. She is a resident at what was formerly Tanglewood Apartments, now the “The Rand at Tillery” under new ownership.
“Our rent almost got doubled. So mine went from $880 to $1395, which is over a $500 increase, and even though we’ve been here discussing it, there are no affordable housing projects on agenda to be opened up and so that’s why we’re here to make sure it’s the focus of the conversation,” Freeman said.
Mayor Indya Kincannon said she agrees the city is in need of more affordable housing.
“Like people said, that’s a basic need, food clothes and shelter. So, we are doing several things to help create more housing. One is the Middle Housing proposal, other things are making it easier for the private sector to build more housing by streamlining our development services and just maximizing our land use and zoning ordinances so it makes it easier for people to create more housing,” Kincannon said.
However, she said the city council’s jurisdiction is limited when it comes to controlling rent prices.
“Some people were hoping that the city or some other entity could come in and regulate the private transactions between private landlords and tenants, that is not legal, we cannot impose rent control,” she explained.
Freeman said they want the city council to look further into how they can improve the housing crisis.
“Housing is a basic need, it is not a commodity and basic needs in general are morally neutral, this is a black-and-white issue there are solutions and we’re asking them to offer us solutions to these issues we’re posing to them,” she said.
Freeman also announced at the meeting that they are forming the Knox Area Tenants Union, or KATU.
The city is holding a community open house regarding its Missing Middle Housing proposal on Thursday, Sept. 21 from 4:30-7:00 p.m. at the Emerald Youth Foundation Gymnasium. The proposal aims to make changes to the Knoxville zoning code that would remove barriers to Middle Housing.