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Memphis Housing Summit addresses rising rents, lack of affordable units being built to meet the need

With recent studies showing high year-to-year rent surges in the Bluff City, city housing leaders said tens of thousands of additional units are required.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Wednesday, the 4th annual State of Memphis Housing Summit reinforced the issue of local renters at risk of being priced out of the market, and for good reason.

According to the Zumper National Rent Report, rent in October went up 11% on average for one-bedroom apartments in Memphis.

In September, another study from Dwellsy found the average Memphis single family home rent jumped 23% and apartment rentals increased 31% on average.

"It seems kind of arbitrary the amount they are raising the rent by," Memphis renter Tori Black said.

Black recently felt that stress, when a landlord announced a rent increase of nearly 50%, from $720 to $1,040 a month.

"It was kind of unjustifiable to me; we really didn't know what to do and kept begging the property manager for a better arrangement," Black added.

Black eventually negotiated a less severe rent hike but many other Memphis renters aren't so lucky these days.

"It's not sustainable that people keep building these units that people can't afford to live in," Black said. "I think we need a radically different approach to how we build housing and how we allocate housing."

Building more affordable housing against the tide of rising rents drove the discussion Wednesday at the State of Memphis Housing Summit.

"We continue to have housing challenges, the market is changing and so really we keep the information refreshed," City of Memphis Director Of Housing & Community Development Ashley Cash said.

Cash outlined 300 affordable housing units coming online in the next year, including Tillman Cove in Binghampton. 

But Cash said that's just a fraction of the estimated 30,000 units needed for families making less than $40,000 a year, facing rent increases or in substandard housing.

"We've really got to do better with the quality, we are investing in home repair to try to stabilize communities, stabilize neighborhoods, stabilize houses in those places but you know there is just so much need," Cash added.

A need for affordability that's not slowing down anytime soon for renters in every pocket of the Bluff City.

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