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COMMENTARY: I am the face of affordable housing

Richel Albright, 24, is an MTSU graduate who works full-time as a staff writer for Franklin Home Page.

Aside from a one-year stint at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, I have proudly called Williamson County my home for almost 24 years.

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That is, until recently when I decided to move out on my own.

As a recent college graduate working as the beat reporter for Franklin Home Page, I wanted to cut down my commute from my parents’ home in Leiper’s Fork as well as to strike out on my own.

My options were not only limited but also nearly non-existent in Williamson County.

I am the face of affordable housing.

I am a 24-year-old lifelong Williamson County resident with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. I’m working full time, but I can’t afford to live in my own hometown.

When I began working for Brentwood Home Page, the City of Brentwood was in the middle of a heated election and a major component of that election was density and housing.

In forum after forum I sat in the audience taking notes listening to adults argue why high-density projects – such as apartments and condominiums – weren’t what the city wanted.

Many ran on the platform of “preserving” Brentwood for future generations.

I am the future of Brentwood. I am the future of Franklin. I am the future of Williamson County.

While I understand high-density housing projects generate traffic, which generates frustration, if I can’t live where I work, how do you expect me to continue to invest money into your county or city?

I am frustrated. But I am not alone.

I am a single, degree-holding female with not even a traffic ticket to my name. I am the face of affordable housing.

The majority of Williamson County’s recent college graduates are the faces of affordable housing.

Several months ago in the City of Franklin, a development was proposed that would have 35 one-bedroom apartments located on West Main Street, in an area where development has been stagnant for years.

As I sat in a Franklin Planning Commission meeting I heard the public beat around the bush attempting to ask, “What kind of people would be living in the development?”

I would.

At $600-a-month, which is the Village at West Main’s proposed rent, individuals on government subsidies couldn’t afford that property.

I am not sure when or why the term “affordable housing” became a stigma for people classified as “undesirable” or “lazy,” because I am anything but those titles.

We are anything but those titles. We are your sons and daughters wanting to come back home to create the same lives you provided for us.

While the economy is not what it used to be, I ask my elders to remember what it is like to be young, fresh out of college and wanting to spread your wings and start your own life on your own dime.

It is my dream to raise my future children in this county.

I want for them to have the same chance at a phenomenal education as I did and to fall in love with places like downtown Franklin, Pinkerton Park and to know it’s truly Christmas when they see "Noel" glowing above Starbucks at Five Points.

If Williamson County wants to invest in its future, invest in your young professionals.

Invest in the young adults who grew up here and want to come back.

I’ve met many people, my elders, who have told me stories about their own children wanting to move back to the county their family has called home for six generations but couldn’t afford to do so.

Both Brentwood and Franklin are in the middle of planning for their futures with growth, planning and housing.

Brentwood is creating an updated 2020 Plan and Franklin is holding a housing analysis survey for its residents and commuters.

I encourage young professionals around the county who live or work in the area to participate in the survey, let City staff, planners and stakeholders know what it is you want to see in the future, what the needs are for our generation now and in the future.

Make your voices, thoughts and concerns heard.

Williamson County has already been a place we’ve called home once. I’d really love to continue to call it that.

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