Despite strength of U.S. economy, many Americans struggling to get by

Food costs are taking a bigger bite out of many household budgets, as the Urban Institute has found that over 23 percent of families struggled to feed themselves at some point during the year.

Despite a strong economy, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one of their basic needs last year, including paying for food, health care, housing or utilities.

That’s according to an Urban Institute survey of nearly 7,600 adults that found that the difficulties were most prevalent among adults with lower incomes or health issues. But it also revealed that people from all walks of life were running into similar hardships.

The findings issued Tuesday by the nonprofit research organization highlight the financial strains experienced by many Americans in an otherwise strong economy.

The average unemployment rate for 2017 was 4.4 percent, a low that followed years of decline. But having a job doesn’t ensure families will be able to meet their basic needs, said Michael Karpman, one of the study’s authors. Among the households with at least one working adult, more than 30 percent reported hardship.

“Economic growth and low unemployment alone do not ensure everyone can meet their basic needs,” the authors wrote. Food insecurity was the most common challenge: More than 23 percent of households struggled to feed their family at some point during the year. That was followed by problems paying a family medical bill, reported by about 18 percent. A similar percentage didn’t seek care for a medical need because of the cost.

Additionally, roughly 13 percent of families missed a utility bill payment at some point during the year. And 10 percent of families either didn’t pay the full amount of their rent or mortgage, or they paid it late.

While startling data to some, it comes as no surprise to those Americans who are struggling to get by..

Debra Poppelaars of Nashville, Tennessee, underwent spinal fusion surgery last fall and was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly thereafter. Although she is insured, she owes roughly $19,000 for her portion of the medical bills. Between disability, a job change and the mounting debt, she is facing bankruptcy.

“It’s very hard at 64 years old, I look back and think I am in this position and I should be able to retire,” she said.

Jerri Wood of Renton, Washington, says she makes choices each month to pay one bill instead of another as she struggles to pay for her health care. Wood has lived for years with a brain tumor that requires monitoring and was diagnosed with diabetes that she takes insulin to manage.

Rising costs for her care, even with insurance, have her juggling bills to get by – such as paying her cellphone or electricity bill one month and not the next.

“There is such a need for safety nets, so many people are in this position,” she said.

The Urban Institute survey comes at a time when lawmakers are considering cuts to some safety-net programs, such as Medicaid, SNAP and housing assistance.

The researchers said that lawmakers run the risk of increasing the rate of hardship if they reduce support services.

It is the first study on the subject by the D.C.-based organization.

The institute plans to conduct the study every year to track the well-being of families as the economy and safety net systems evolve.

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Airbnb, Niido aim to open 14 home-sharing apartment complexes by 2020

Airbnb is set to debut another almost-hotel and, according to its development partner, it has many more to come. An apartment complex in Nashville, Tennessee, will lease apartments to a mix of long-term renters and short-term visitors as the Silicon Valley home-rental behemoth’s second announced Airbnb-branded building.

The new project is a takeover of an existing 328-unit building, the Olmsted, in the downtown SoBro neighborhood, a popular tourist destination for music lovers and bachelor parties. Airbnb’s partner Niido purchased the building last week. Under Niido’s new ownership, current Olmsted residents will be encouraged to sublet their units to Airbnb travelers for a maximum of 180 days per year. Airbnb and Niido will take 25 percent of the income the residents generate from home-sharing. The two companies will jointly rent a portion of the remaining vacant units through Airbnb’s platform for short-term stays.

The concept, called Niido Powered by Airbnb, is part of a larger push by Airbnb to team up with real estate developers and facility managers, a group that has frequently argued that the home-sharing company enables renters to sublet their apartments illegally. In December, Brookfield Property Partners agreed to invest as much as $200 million into Niido’s efforts to turn residential apartment buildings into Airbnb-branded complexes.

By the end of 2019, Airbnb and Niido will open as many as 14 Airbnb-branded complexes nationwide, said Cindy Diffenderfer, co-founder and chief marketing officer for Niido Powered by Airbnb. “We have a pretty aggressive growth strategy,” Differnderfer said. A representative for Niido said the plans could change. Airbnb declined to comment.

As part of a push to broaden its appeal to more upscale clientele, Airbnb has added more hotels and hotel-like listings under the label Airbnb Plus. Those sites get regular visits from an inspector to confirm thattowels are fresh, sheets are matching and that appliances commonly found in hotels, including hair dryers and irons, are stocked. Working in partnership with real estate developers like Niido will help Airbnb offer a more hotel-like experience while operating out of homes and apartments.

Not all residents are thrilled about their new neighbors, however. Earlier this year, Niido and Aibnb revealed a conversion of a 324-unit complex in Kissimmee, Florida, that prompted some residents to claim they “didn’t agree to live in a hotel.”

In Nashville, there was similar surprise late last week after Niido Powered by Airbnb informed Olmsted residents that their building would become a home-sharing complex. “We’re excited to announce the recent acquisition of your beautiful community,” said a letter sent to residents on behalf of Diffenderfer and her partners at Niido.

Residents already living in the building say they had no idea that Niido was taking over their leases or that their building would be turned into a permanent Airbnb complex. A representative for Niido said the real estate company is aware of complaints and it is focused on, “building robust and satisfied communities in Nashville and Kissimmee.”

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Middle Tennessee real estate trends for July 2018

June 2018 real estate trends for Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford and Sumner counties, as compiled by Chandler Reports.

Chandler Reports has been publishing Real Estate Market Data since 1968. That year, Chandler began collecting residential sales information for the Chandler Residential Report, considered the authoritative source for residential real estate sales information. Over the next three decades, the publications have been continually refined, enhanced and expanded, growing to include lot sales data, new residential construction and absorption information, and commercial sales. In 1987, Chandler Reports began one of the first on–line real estate market data services in the country, and is a nationally recognized leader in the industry. In 2004, Chandler Reports was purchased by The Daily News Publishing Co. In 2007, Chandler introduced RegionPlus, including property research for Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Visit online at

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Historic Nashville home could be yours, but there’s a catch


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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The former midtown shop and studio of a well-known fashion designer to the stars could be yours, but there’s a catch.

Through the window of Two Boots Pizza owner Sam Boyer has watched the home at 1922 Broadway change owners.

“We caught the tail end of Manuel,” Boyer said. “He’d be walking out of the building with beautiful models on his arms and there would be photographers.”

Well-known fashion designer Manuel Cuevas once ran his studio and store out of the building. Manuel designed clothes for stars like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley.

"The guy made the costumes for the Beatles on the cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that’s a pretty big deal,” Boyer said.

Vanderbilt University now owns the house, it came with a $13 million purchase of an acre lot in 2016.

“It is a prime piece of real estate there,” Boyer said.

Now that house could be yours, if you’re willing to move it.

“I don’t even know how I’d go about moving a house like that,” Nashville resident Oscar Eck said.

The university said it will donate the building to whoever can move and preserve it. Vanderbilt is working with the Metro Historical Commission and Historic Nashville to find that person.

“I think it’s a great move,” Boyer said. “I think someone should do it, there’s a ton of history with the home."

Vanderbilt is working on plans for the acre lot, but have not announced what they plan to do with the land just yet.

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25. Nashville, TN

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

Homeownership rate (15 to 34 years old): 26.9%5-year percent change: -13%Homeownership rate (all ages): 53.5%Millennial-owned households: 20,200 (out of 138,890 owner-occupied households)Average millennial home value: $209,679Average home value (all ages): $231,291

In Nashville, 26.9 percent of millennials own their own homes. This is 50 percent lower than the overall homeownership rate in Nashville, which stands at 53.5 percent. The average millennial home value of $209,679 is similar to the national average.

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Middle Tennessee real estate trends for second quarter 2018

Second quarter 2018 real estate trends for Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford and Sumner counties, as compiled by Chandler Reports.

Chandler Reports has been publishing Real Estate Market Data since 1968. That year, Chandler began collecting residential sales information for the Chandler Residential Report, considered the authoritative source for residential real estate sales information. Over the next three decades, the publications have been continually refined, enhanced and expanded, growing to include lot sales data, new residential construction and absorption information, and commercial sales. In 1987, Chandler Reports began one of the first on–line real estate market data services in the country, and is a nationally recognized leader in the industry. In 2004, Chandler Reports was purchased by The Daily News Publishing Co. In 2007, Chandler introduced RegionPlus, including property research for Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Visit online at

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Taylor Swift Owns At Least $84 Million In Real Estate Across Four States

It will be well over a year before Taylor Swift sees her 30th birthday, but she’s already doing pretty well for herself career-wise. One unmistakable metric of that success is her impressive real estate portfolio, as reported by real estate site Trulia. She has at least $84 million worth of real estate to her name, spread across several properties in four different states.

Two of those properties are in Nashville, TN, a city with obvious significance to Swift’s life and career, since it was in the country music industry that she began her trip to superstardom. One is the 3,240-square-foot condo located in the city’s "Music Row," purchased by the singer when she was just 20 years old, and in 2013 she told Vulture that she was the interior designer behind the condo’s "whimsically girlie" vibe. Then there’s the sprawling estate she purchased in 2011, with a 5,600-square-foot main house and 2,000-square-foot guesthouse. Despite the space, it’s reported to be the cheapest property she owns — even though it costs around $2.5 million.

Next up is Los Angeles, where Swift spends a lot of time, as one would expect given her stature in show business. And even though she got rid of her $4 million Beverly Hills cottage earlier this year, she still owns another two places in LA: One a 2,950-square-foot Beverly Hills home that she’s in the midst of selling, and the other the former Beverly Hills mansion of famous movie producer Samuel Goldwyn, which she bought in 2015. For the latter, she has big plans, getting approval from the Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission to restore the mansion and convert it into a historic landmark.

Swift also owns a seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom mansion in Rhode Island, estimated to be worth $6.65 million, but it’s New York City where her highest concentration of real estate holdings is located, with three properties all on the same block in Tribeca. In 2014 she purchased two adjacent Tribeca penthouses and converted them into one massive duplex penthouse, with ten bedrooms, ten bathrooms, and 8,309 square feet, all worth about $20.5 million. Then in 2017, she bought up the century-old townhouse next door, now estimated to be worth a good $12.5 million. Finally, earlier this year in February, she spent $9.75 million on a condo on the second floor of the same building as her penthouse, leading fans to dub the area "Taybeca."

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Wine, liquor available on July 4th in TN for first time

Liquor stores and groceries can sell wine and liquor on July 4 for the first time after a new law was passed earlier this year. (WSMV file photo)


If you haven’t picked up any alcohol for the Fourth of July yet, don’t worry, you still have time.

For the first time you can buy wine at the grocery on the July 4 holiday. Liquor stores also have the option of being open for the first time.

A new law was passed earlier this year that allowed liquor sales on some holidays.

“Fourth of July is one of those busy holidays. People are out and doing different things, having cookouts and they want to be able to purchase wine on the holiday, and it was very confusing because they could purchase beer and couldn’t purchase wine,” said Kroger spokesperson Melissa Eads. “Thanks to the new legislation they can come to the grocery store tomorrow on the Fourth of July and purchase wine.”

Before the new law, liquor and wine sales were banned on Independence Day, Labor Day and New Year’s Day.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Nashville Unemployment Remains Historically Low

NASHVILLE, TN — Davidson County’s unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 percent in May, but remains extremely low at 2.2 percent, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. Metro’s unemployment rate is the state’s second lowest.

The unemployment rate increased in 75 counties, fell in eight and stayed the same in 12, but only two of the state’s 95 counties have jobless rates above 5 percent.

(For more updates on this story and free news alerts for your neighborhood, sign up for your local Middle Tennessee Patch morning newsletter.)

Of the ten lowest county-level figures statewide, eight were in Middle Tennessee. The lowest figure belongs to Williamson County at 2.1 percent.

Davidson County is tops among the state’s four largest metros, besting Knoxville’s Knox County (25 percent), Chattanooga’s Hamilton County (2.9 percent) and Memphis’ Shelby County (3.7 percent).

Davidson County’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percent from May 2017.

The state rate, reported last week, is 3.5 percent.

Image via Shutterstock

Nashville, TN Job Board

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Nashville teachers, school workers denounce pay freeze

At a public hearing on Tuesday night, June 5, officials from the Metro Nashville City Council outlined a proposed 2018–19 budget, which includes no money for teacher and school employee pay raises but continues tax giveaways to the rich.

Dozens of teachers and school workers lined up before the City Council to have their brief say on a budget that mandates serious cuts to school personnel, programs and free lunches. It will also eliminate a paltry 2.5 percent pay raise that was proposed for teachers.

“How can we proclaim to the world that we are such a smart and creative city when we spend between $3,000 and $4,000 a year less than the national average per public school student and $15,000 less than children in some private schools in Nashville?” one participant asked.

Nashville resident Marti Profitt told councilmembers she knew of schools where children would run to the bathroom between classes in hopes of getting the only stall with a door. She spoke of schools where children had classrooms without furniture and of one teacher’s pleas for chairs.

“She told me, ‘I’ve got 36 children and three are sitting on the floor,’” Profitt recalled. “Councilmembers, do you ever have to look for chairs?”

Nashville, Tennessee, which has been billed as the “It” city for its trendy restaurants, pubs and art galleries, is covered with corporate offices with lobbies that “feel like cathedrals,” Profitt added.

City and state officials have given away hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks, incentives and out-right grants to corporations to build those “cathedrals.” And they do not lack for chairs…. or doors on their bathroom stalls or toilet paper and paper towels like many schools.

One of the latest was a $1 million gift from the City Council to Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) to buy furniture for new offices despite the company making $2.1 billion in profits last year.

“Among the incentives Metro provided HCA to move three of its subsidiaries into a headquarters building downtown was $1 million for the company to buy office furniture,” CBS affiliate NewsChannel 5 reported recently. “But less was said about the $66 million incentive package Metro gave HCA to build the headquarters for three of its subsidiary companies.”

The furniture the city paid for with money that could have gone to the schools was a “premium wood finishes” table for $8,321.25, a “Guitar Pick Table” (Nashville is also known as “Music City”) for $4,190.18 and, for the executive lounge, a “Tuxedo Sofa” for $6,540.45.

Teachers across the United States and around the world have shown new energy and courage to fight back after decades of low wages and deterioration of public schools. Hundreds of thousands conducted statewide walkouts in West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina and the US territory of Puerto Rico.

One of the most common complaint wherever there was a teachers’ struggle was repeated at the City Council in Tennessee. “Teachers are in the only profession where you steal from home to bring to work,” one middle school teacher complained to the Council. “This is a common joke among teachers, but it is no longer funny.”

As the WSWS has previously reported, analysis of Census Bureau data in 2015 by the Brookings Institution revealed Nashville to be one of the most unequal cities in the nation. It ranked sixth out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas for income disparity.

“Residents in the 95th percentile have an average annual income of around $170,000, 7.9 times more than those in the 20th percentile, who earn little more than $21,000,” the WSWS reported.

The finance website reported that Nashville last year experienced a cost of living increase of 15.4 percent—the fourth-largest increase of all major US cities. Meanwhile the median cost for homes rose by 30 percent in 2015–2017, from under $260,000 to nearly $340,000. That was the largest increase in the nation, according to the business site.

“Home prices like this are well out of range for a starting Nashville teacher, who can expect to make barely $43,000 a year, well below the Nashville median income of $61,000,” the WSWS concluded.

And teachers know it.

“The cost of rental property has gone up another 3 percent this year—our salaries haven’t,” one teacher told the assembled city officials. “Teachers want adequate housing.”

The Nashville Business Journal noted that, based on, to live “comfortably” in Nashville today requires $70,150 a year.

Many of the speakers were deferential to the Council, thanking them for listening and pleading for money for the schools. One school employee, however, felt no need to curtsy before the officials. Instead he exposed the Council’s dirty little secret of habitually opening city coffers to corporations.

“I’ve watched them build (sports) stadium after stadium, and a (new) convention center go up,” he said. “We always seem to find money for that. We find money to give tips to developers, we find money for corporate welfare (but) for some reason we always have to balance the budgets on the backs of working stiffs. Why are you taking money away from working people and handing it to millionaires?”

As the WSWS reported in February of last year, sometimes the giveaways can only be described as nothing less than obscene:

The Nashville/Davidson County City Council has voted to grant almost $14 million in “tax incentives” for the construction of a private hotel water park, which few if any working-class residents will ever use.

In a press release describing the $90 million, 217,000 square-foot water park at its Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Ryman CEO Colin Reed said the project was “a major demand inducer for families and adult leisure guests looking for upscale recreation options. This really, truly will be the first luxury water park of its kind in the United States of America,” Reed told the Tennessean newspaper. “This is a water park on steroids.”

While city officials lavish millions on new playgrounds for the affluent, the remarks of one Nashville schools para-professional exposed the consequences of years of budget cutting and official indifference towards public school employees and students.

Para-professionals work with the most “vulnerable” and the most “medically fragile” students,” she said. Some have eating problems, others behavior problems, and the job can mean lifting students as large as the school worker. Duties can include having to change everything from dirty diapers to sanitary napkins, she added.

“I want you to imagine doing that kind of work and doing it every single day for $11.57 an hour, which is the starting pay for para-professionals,” she told the panel. “The average salary for a MNPS (Metro Nashville Public Schools) para-professional is $19,620. That is not a typo. That is not an error—they make less than $20,000 a year.”

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