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Nashville added nearly 100 new residents per day in 2022.

Nashville skyline at dusk.

John Greim | LightRocket | Getty Images

Over the past 30 years, Nashville, Tennessee — a city known for country music — has seen a flood of transplants moving from higher-cost cities.

For new residents, “everybody has a different story,” said Jeff Hite, chief economic development officer of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Some new residents come for job opportunities, while others move for a better quality of life or a lower cost of living, including no state income tax, he said.

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While Nashville is known for music and entertainment, other top employers include health care, manufacturing and technology.

In 2022, the Nashville metropolitan area grew by about 35,624 people — or roughly 98 new residents per day — according to Census data compiled by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Research Center. 

Since 1990, the population has grown by 81%, with more than 2 million residents in the Nashville metropolitan area in 2022.

We see people moving from the same areas that we see companies having interest to relocate from — areas that are dense, expensive and highly regulated.

Jeff Hite

Chief economic development officer of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

“We see people moving from the same areas that we see companies having interest to relocate from — areas that are dense, expensive and highly regulated,” Hite said. 

Nashville was named one of the top 10 “homebuyer migration destinations” in a recent Redfin report. Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego and New York were the top origin cities for prospective transplants, according to search data from August through October 2023.

© Nina Dietzel | Moment | Getty Images

Downtown Nashville resident growth

The city’s primary tourism district has also seen an influx of new residents over the past 20 years, according to Tom Turner, president and CEO of the Nashville Downtown Partnership.

In 2003, there were roughly 1,900 residents living in downtown Nashville, which covers 2.4 square miles, and Turner expects to reach about 23,000 residents within the next couple of years. 

Attracted to a “central location,” some 43% of downtown residents moved from out of state, survey data from the Nashville Downtown Partnership shows.

Cost of living, affordability are ‘major challenges’

While the Nashville area has seen staggering growth, affordability and quality of life are lingering concerns for many residents.

As of Aug. 2023, a family needed to earn $124,095 per year to afford a median-priced home worth $455,000 in the Nashville area, up by 19% year-over-year, according to a Redfin analysis

That’s nearly $10,000 higher than the $114,627 income needed to buy the median-priced U.S. home sold for about $420,000 in Aug. 2023, the analysis showed.

“Cost of living and affordability are major challenges in this area,” Hite said, emphasizing the Chamber’s push for “high skill, high wage jobs” as more companies expand or relocate to the city.

Affordability has been a problem across the country, and we’ve certainly no exception.

Tom Turner

President and CEO of Nashville Downtown Partnership

Some 47% of Nashville residents said the city’s growth is “making their day-to-day life worse,” nearly double the percentage from 2017, according to a Vanderbilt University poll released in April 2023.

Nearly 80% of those surveyed believe the city’s population is “growing too quickly,” the poll found. And feelings about Nashville’s economy were split by income, with more negative views from residents earning less than $45,000 per year.

“Affordability has been a problem across the country, and we’re certainly no exception,” said Turner.

You can’t ignore rising housing prices and longer commutes, but “a lot of it is perspective,” he said. While long-time residents may have deeper concerns, transplants from high-cost markets may find Nashville “very affordable.”

CNBC's Cities of Success Nashville: Sneak Peek

TUNE IN: “Cities of Success” special featuring Nashville will air on CNBC on Dec. 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

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