• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
Expert: New Housing on Cumberland Avenue 'A Good Start' Toward Addressing Years of Underbuilding 
Broadly speaking, young people in Knoxville (and elsewhere) are feeling the pressure of the housing market.

But it's a two-way street: With national and local housing shortages and affordability issues, how do University of Tennessee students affect the Knoxville housing market? And how will thousands of new apartments geared toward students impact the larger Knoxville community?

In this second report in a 2-part series on student housing, Hancen Sale, Government Affairs and Policy Director at East Tennessee REALTORS, discusses how large projects like Hub on Campus will benefit students, help Cumberland Avenue businesses to prosper, and help maintain citywide rent levels by increasing the overall amount of housing.

Hancen Sale

Hancen Sale

'A really big deal for students'

Earlier this year, construction got underway for Hub on Campus - a half-billion-dollar private development on the Cumberland Avenue Strip that will include more than 800 apartments, 30,000 square feet of retail space and a 10-story parking garage.

Cranes arise from the Hub on Campus construction site

Cranes arise from the Hub on Campus construction site

What does the creation of more housing, like Hub on Campus, do for Knoxville as a whole?

The Hub is not only good for students, creating a new housing choice and more availability; it is also good for the city, following the newer model for maximizing housing.

Sale believes the project is also going to be beneficial for business growth.

In years past, some of the properties along the Strip had declined and become blighted. (The City's $25 million investment to modernize infrastructure less than a decade ago was aimed at making Cumberland safer for motorists and pedestrians, but also to stimulate private investment.)

Sale says a project like Hub on Campus, and the clustering of so many students on Cumberland, will generate revenue to boost current businesses and open opportunities for new businesses in a way that is also beneficial to the students and their quality of life.

“This is going to be a really big deal for students,” Sale says.

Below: An unsafe and snarled Cumberland Avenue, circa early 2000s, prior to the City's $25 million streetscape, infrastructure and utilities upgrade, completed in 2017:

"Before" photo - Cumberland Avenue Strip, circa early 2000s

Did you know that the 2017 Cumberland Avenue reconstruction made the corridor safer - reducing accidents almost immediately by 44 percent? Click HERE.

Below: Cumberland Avenue, circa 2018: 

Cumberland Avenue, circa 2018

Rapid construction of new apartments: 'A good start'

While students may not see a dramatic drop in rent, rapid growth in new housing will help keep rents down and free up space throughout Knoxville, Sale says.

Will the addition of 800 new units sufficiently address the student housing crunch?

Sale is quick to discuss the context and the reason for our current housing issues nationwide, explaining that housing has been chronically underbuilt since 2008 nationally and Knoxville was already gaining traction but hit an absolute boom after COVID-19.

These factors coupled have led to occupancy rates being so high that Knoxville is considered by most to be at full capacity.

“Will the new construction be enough to make up for the fact that we’ve underbuilt housing for more than a decade?" Sale asks. "Probably not, but it is a good start.”

Sale says we as a city have to continue building new student and general housing in order to correct the market needs. He foresees Knoxville being flooded with supply in the next few years.

Affordable housing: 1,500 new apartments since 2020

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon has from Day 1 made affordable housing a top priority.

In her first budget, she funded, with City Council approval, $7.5 million to support affordable housing in Knoxville, including continuing the City’s investment of $2.5 million in the Affordable Rental Development Fund (ARDF) to leverage new affordable and workforce housing in collaboration with partners.

In fact, Kincannon committed a minimum of $5 million per year for the next 10 years to support the development of affordable housing.

In just the past two years, the City has pumped more than $18.5 million into housing programs.

More than 1,500 new affordable housing units have opened since 2020.

Click HERE to see a chart detailing housing communities that have been built, that are under construction or that soon will begin construction.

Making housing affordable also means helping people buy a house to renovate or assistance in maintaining their existing home. The City of Knoxville does that through the Homemakers Program, Owner-Occupied Home Rehabilitation, other City programs and by supporting programs operated by community group partners. More info HERE.

All of the City's efforts supplement the new construction being done in all parts of Knoxville by private developers. While the Hub alone will not add enough new apartments to balance the supply-and-demand scales, it is a significant step forward.

Housing availability, many local experts agree, will determine Knoxville's economy and ability to retain and attract talented young people. 

As Sale says, “Our local economy doesn’t function without housing, because people have to have a place to live."

-Written by University of Tennessee Baker Center Fellow Lillian Marcum, who interned this spring in the City's Communications Department

Posted by evreeland On 04 August, 2023 at 11:23 AM