History of Senior Housing

What We’ve Learned

The issue of affordable senior housing has been highly debated for several years in Brentwood.  Developers have consistently used this divisive issue to try to break down one home per acre zoning in every two-year election cycle.  It is true some, but certainly not all, seniors would like to find an affordable downsizing option to continue to live in Brentwood.  However, Commissioners are not able to provide what those looking for this option really want, which is affordable housing they can purchase.  Commissioners have spent many hours investigating alternatives in the last five years to try to offer some solutions.

In the last senior housing debate in 2017 over a new zoning classification called SI-5 (Service Institution Zoning) three development companies were brought in for a workshop session to evaluate how specialists in the senior housing market might provide a similar product in Brentwood.  What we learned was such units would be at least half-million dollars and up due to the high cost of land in the area.  This was confirmed by all three specialists in the field.  Even at density levels of five times higher than one home per acre density the prices would start at what the average home in Brentwood is valued at today and go up from there.  Due to land prices alone in Brentwood affordable senior housing is not a realistic possibility.  Land prices are set by supply and demand, not ordinances issued by the City government.  The fact Brentwood is such a desirable place to live is what keeps land and home prices high.

Most seniors envision affordable senior housing as a small condominium which could be purchased for a fraction of what their existing home is worth.  Due to Tennessee State Law developers cannot be forced to sell housing they build once it is completed.  Developers typically build what is most profitable for them, which certainly is reasonable.  Rental property is much more profitable for developers due to lower construction loan rates and the fact rental income is constant, rather than money made from a one-time sale.  However, seniors are not looking for rental options.  They want a down-sizing option which can be purchased.  This is simply a type of development Commissioners are powerless to force builders to provide.  We currently have rental downsizing options at the Tapestry and very few seniors see this as a viable option.

We also learned age discrimination is illegal unless the City creates HUD compliant ordinances for senior housing. Involvement by the federal government in setting and enforcing zoning laws in Brentwood is troubling to many residents.