Rising rent, few options leaving some Knoxville residents feeling stuck

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One month ago, we were spotlighting the rising cost of rent in Knoxville. There’s another problem impacting people today, regardless of budget: very few options.

Just before noon Friday, Zillow.com had 114 rental options in Tennessee’s third-largest city, including 40 houses, 60 apartments, and 14 townhomes. Trilia.com listed 135 total options. Apartments.com showed 99 options available for a lease beginning July 1.

After a year of being stuck at home, Brittany Ellis decided she wanted to find another place to move in Knoxville. After searching for two months, and applying to more than 20 places, she still feels stuck. “I almost feel like I’m in limbo,” she said.

She keeps a close check on recent listings, but still finds herself being passed over for others, often from out-of-state, she later learns. Ellis understands why people from other states would find Knoxville desirable, given she moved here more than five years ago from Michigan.

Ellis said she and her boyfriend have worked hard to build credit and pay down medical debt. She feels she should have no issues passing the application process. “I want all of us, locals, people that have been here, to be a priority instead of getting shoved in the back for people who don’t even live here yet,” she added.

Hancen Sale, Governmental Affairs and Policy Director for the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors explains our region was not prepared to become a hot destination across the country, as he noted it’s been underbuilding for about a decade.

People from other states, he explained, are attracted to our relatively low cost of living and lack of a state income tax. There is no solid figure of how many people have moved to the city recently, though 2020 Census Data is set to be released later this year.

Sale said it’s important to start the conversation now about enabling more rental and owner-occupied housing. “…this is something that is set into motion years in advance,” he added. He added if the trend of demand outweighing supply continues, prices will continue to increase, essentially making the city unaffordable for those who have been in Knoxville for a long time. It could also halt new investment.

“There are not going to be a ton of Amazon’s coming in if we don’t have the ability to house our workforce,” he said. Sale noted this also creates the possibility of essential workers, first responders, and educators being unable to live in the city they serve.

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