Affordable Housing in Sevier County: Ambassadeur Hotel’s Commitment to the Community

Pickens Way Apartments

For the thousands of individuals employed in Sevier County’s vibrant tourism industry, finding affordable housing was already a challenge. The devastating Gatlinburg wildfire in November 2016 only exacerbated this issue. However, in response to a 2017 report highlighting the need for up to 2,000 additional rental units, both state and local officials have taken action. Several private developments, backed by tax credits or tax abatements, are currently in progress. These developments, predominantly aimed at lower-income families, are promising to provide more than half of the required apartments.

Watson Glades Groundbreaking Ceremony
Officials gather for a groundbreaking ceremony for Watson Glades, a new affordable housing complex in Sevier County on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency and Citizens National Bank are helping fund the project.

Ambassadeur Hotel recognizes the critical importance of affordable housing for the community’s well-being. As part of our commitment to Sevier County, we actively support the development of projects like Watson Glade. This impressive venture, spearheaded by Jefferson City developer David Hayes, is expected to offer 80 rental units in Gatlinburg. By utilizing low-income tax credits from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA), Watson Glade has secured nearly $850,000 in funding, primarily aimed at assisting families whose income falls within 60 percent of Sevier County’s median income.

According to THDA, the Sevier County median income for a one-person household is $24,600. Rent for a two-bedroom apartment, under this income bracket, cannot exceed $790, while a three-bedroom apartment cannot exceed $912. These rent limits are integral to maintaining affordable housing prices for 14 to 20 years.

More Funding Options for Affordable Housing

State-level tax credits are not the only method used to finance affordable housing in Sevier County. The Sevierville Industrial Development Board recently approved payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements for three projects, including Douglas Greene. This particular project also benefits from THDA tax credits. Douglas Greene, ready to break ground soon, will be joined by two other developments located on State Route 66 and Kyker Ferry Road, devised by Johnson City developer Mitch Cox. Together, these three projects will create a total of 440 units. Rent prices for Cox’s developments will vary based on amenities, but the least expensive units will not exceed 30 percent of income for families at 80 percent of the county’s median income.

Groundbreaking for Watson Glades
Bill Kilpatrick (Chairman of the board for Citizens National Bank), David Verble (President and CEO of Citizens National Bank), and Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters stand at a groundbreaking for Watson Glades, a new affordable housing complex in Sevier County Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency and Citizens National Bank are helping fund the project.

Sevierville’s dedication to affordable housing is evident through ongoing negotiations with another developer for the acquisition of land on Veterans Boulevard. Combined with THDA and PILOT-funded projects, this forthcoming complex will provide approximately 1,200 new rental units in Sevierville alone. Sevier County officials recognize that encouraging housing options is crucial for both community and economic development. Without adequate housing, the county will struggle to attract and retain the essential workforce required to serve its countless tourists.

The Urgent Demand for Affordable Housing

A housing study conducted in 2017 by Knoxville real estate appraiser Nelson Pratt of Hodges & Pratt Co. identified the severe housing shortage in Sevier County. Rental housing was already operating at full capacity, making it increasingly challenging for individuals earning minimum wage or the average wage among renters to afford suitable accommodation. The study indicated that more than one-third of Sevier County renters were classified as “rent-overburdened,” spending over 35 percent of their income on housing. In 2016, there were over 18,000 renter households in Sevier County, with an estimated annual growth rate of 1 percent.

Despite the abundance of hotel rooms, cabins, and other lodging options designed for tourists, these accommodations are not suitable for long-term residents. Many workers were forced to rent motel rooms due to the lack of affordable housing.

Redoubled Efforts to Address the Crisis

Shovels and hardhats at a groundbreaking for Watson Glades

Since the devastating wildfire, THDA has significantly increased its focus on Sevier County. The agency raised its cap on tax credits allocated to the county and redirected $2 million in unused credits from other areas of the state to address the housing crisis. These efforts have resulted in seven recent award-winning projects and recommendations.

It is essential to address common misconceptions surrounding affordable housing projects. These developments, financed by tax credits, do not resemble stereotypical “projects.” On the contrary, they are private ventures that operate similarly to any other apartment complex.

As a community-driven brand, Ambassadeur Hotel is proud to support these vital housing initiatives. Our dedication to Sevier County extends beyond our exceptional hotel services. By actively engaging with the local community and contributing to the development of affordable housing, we aim to create a thriving and inclusive environment for all.

To learn more about the Ambassadeur Hotel and its commitment to the Sevier County community, visit Ambassadeur Hotel.