Entrenched in the front lines of ongoing efforts to develop more affordable housing in a steadily growing region, Nashville-based nonprofit The Housing Fund celebrated its 25th birthday in 2021.

Affordable housing was a problem a quarter-century ago. It’s a crisis now.

David Thibodeau, a retired Nashville banking executive, sounded absolutely prophetic when he summed up the need for affordable housing in the city at the time.

“We want them living in Davidson County,” Thibodeau, a founder and then board chair of the Nashville Housing Fund, told the Nashville Business Journal. “Otherwise, we won’t be able to fill those jobs.”

According to a 2021 report from Mayor John Cooper’s Affordable Housing Task Force, Nashville needs to create 53,758 units by 2030, and 18,000 of those need to be affordable to households earning 80 percent of the area’s median income level or lower.

Thibodeau remains active on The Housing Fund’s board of directors and strongly believes in home ownership. He and his wife, Jean, have set up a future gift to come to The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee through their estate plan. This gift will establish a fund that includes support for affordable housing, home ownership, and work such as that of The Housing Fund.

The Housing Fund grew out of a community effort, that began with the Nashville Agenda’s planning process in the early 1990s that called for “affordable, adequate and safe” housing as an essential objective for Nashville going forward into the 21st century.

Retail giant Amazon has joined the effort by providing The Housing Fund an additional $1.5 million donation in late 2021 to help housing residents in Nashville. The latest donation comes on top of Amazon’s first contribution of $2.25 million in 2020.

The Housing Fund plans to help local residents by easing the tax burden on eligible landlords who are committed to maintaining affordable housing and avoid rent increases for their residents.

Meanwhile, the Amazon Nashville Community Fund was established at The Community Foundation in 2021. This Fund complements Amazon’s larger philanthropic efforts, with

the goal to use the company’s ability to innovate quickly to strengthen communities around the world where their employees live and work.

Hope for more affordable housing in Nashville is on the horizon.

“I’m impressed with progress being made around the recommendations in the report provided by the Affordable Housing Task Force,” Marshall Crawford, President and CEO of The Housing Fund, said in an interview with The Community Foundation. “The new Housing Division as part of the Metro planning is a positive step forward for Nashville. There is great energy around the division’s developing a public-facing dashboard that will showcase the affordable housing inventory in the Metro. Also, I am excited about the increase in funding for the Barnes Housing Trust Fund and the strong desire to ensure the preservation of existing affordable housing units.

“Personally, the commitment of nearly $30 million for homeownership through our shared-equity program is my favorite example,” Crawford continued. “In our attempt to address the wealth gap and mitigate housing disparities, we are excited to offer a product we started a decade ago to ensure low- and moderate-income families could achieve homeownership and build wealth. This product provides an immediate 25% return on investment from Day One. We plan to make home ownership achievable and affordable regardless of the the challenges.”

“Finally,” Crawford concluded, “many for-profit developers are committing to mixed-income developments to help address the challenges of affordable housing.”