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August 09, 2023 | Shannon Smith

More affordable housing options top the list of Knox County resident priorities

Findings from a poll commissioned by East Tennessee REALTORS reviewed themes such as quality of life, possible additional housing, residential growth and development, affordable housing, and more.

What do people want Knox County to look like in the future? The answer is simple: more houses and less traffic.

On Wednesday, East Tennessee REALTORS hosted a virtual presentation and Q&A about results from its public opinion poll commissioned to understand residents’ views on growth and development. The data was intended to inform Advance Knox, an initiative to create a comprehensive land use and transportation plan for Knox County.

What this data shows is people – particularly younger renters – are fed up with the lack of affordable housing options in the Knoxville and Knox County areas. Of the 829 adults randomly selected to take this growth and development poll, 67 percent found housing affordability to be a very/fairly big problem.

“This meeting brought together community leaders from across Knox County to discuss the key findings from East Tennessee REALTORS latest public opinion poll,” said Hancen Sale, East Tennessee REALTORS Government Affairs and Policy Director, who lead the discussion. “Advance Knox will have a significant and lasting impact on our county, and this poll provides valuable insight into the housing and transportation priorities of the region’s residents.”

Findings from the research reviewed themes such as quality of life, possible additional housing, residential growth and development, affordable housing, and many other topics. American Strategies, a nationally recognized polling firm, designed and administered this multi-modal survey conducted by professional interviewers and online via Qualtrics. The survey reached 829 adults, age 18 or older, who indicated they currently live in Knox County, Tennessee, and was conducted from November 28 through December 1, 2022.

“As mayor of Knox County, it’s my responsibility to look out for this community and understand the thoughts and feelings of residents as we continue to grow,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “I’m glad to have taken part in this and feel our county’s leaders have been provided ample knowledge for decisions ahead.”

Sale notes that while most of the data found in the poll was somewhat expected, what did take him by surprise was how many people are in favor of a third type of housing – something between single-family homes and large apartment complexes.

“I was actually pretty surprised by the level of support that we see for the small-scale multi-family missing-middle type of housing,” said Sale. He said he goes to a lot of public and community meetings regarding housing, and based on feedback there, he expected poll-takers to be overall more pessimistic. “At public meetings, you see a lot of opposition to new housing development. Yet when you do a poll like this that’s not self-selected, that doesn’t just draw the neighbors, when you bring it up to a broad level you see that there’s really strong support for new housing across the board, and different types like townhomes, duplexes, triplexes. Whereas at a public meeting, it feels like the community is overwhelmingly opposed to that sort of thing.”

There’s a big takeaway that local leaders should learn from that conclusion.

“What our elected officials hear in public meetings truly isn’t representative of the population at large and I think this poll provides a lot of evidence for that,” said Sale.

For all the data and findings from the poll, click here.

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