Former Knoxville Mayor, Victor Ashe in his column for the Shopper News last week sounded an alert, that maybe not all is well with our Knoxville Mayor’s well packaged new plan, Advance Knox. Mayor Ashe is concerned that the initial meeting for Advance Knox was held behind closed doors. Knox County has an embarrassing history with that (please search Black Wednesday, New York Times, if you are not aware). Not all the players have changed since then.
Mayor Ashe also told us the price tag of Advance Knox is a million dollars. Let’s use those dollars wisely and show up at the meetings -tonight at Hardin Valley Middle School and tomorrow night at Northshore Elementary where the consultants will record our views. At a price tag of upwards of $50,000 per public meeting we should certainly work to get our money’s worth.
Also last week, Hancen Sale, a very young man with a very long title and on the payroll of the Board of Realtors, appeared on the Realtors’ behalf before the County Commission. He presented an alarmist report on Knoxville’s housing crisis. The press covered and ran with it, likely primed by advance press releases.
There’s no denying it’s a red hot seller’s market and housing affordability is a major concern. However, those who have combed the report’s stats suggest a major caveat.
The baseline for the report is the Covid years, certainly major statistical anomalies. People were working from home, many others homebound due to illness or trying to avoid it, homes could not be shown for sale, and a time when our schools were closed and businesses shuttered or struggling.
Should we base important decisions on such of data? Those who have lived through boom bust cycles understand that a significant overnight hike in interest rates, the very thing the Federal Reserve is already discussing may put the brakes on and turn the boom to bust. They ask what then will happen to the thousands of apartment units already adorning the slopes around Knoxville. If history is a good teacher, therein may lie the answer to affordable housing. Facing huge mortgage payments and a dwindling pool of capable high rent payers, will the absentee investor owners then turn to the subsidy programs of the federal government? Worse, will some of those go into default and sit neglected for the years it takes lenders to foreclose and eventually remarket?
For close observers the most interesting part of Mr. Sale’s presentation came at the conclusion by way Commissioner comments. Both Mr. Jay and Mr. Smith showed they were well pleased with what to others may have looked like a dog and pony show designed to gird the effort to gut zoning and allow the build-out of Knox County’s remaining land. Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, is enduring advice. A message crafted by an industry spokesperson should always be viewed with a discerning eye. All information needs context.