RAD in Nashville Building a community into the City's future

This photo essay explores the impact of a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion, a project of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s Office of Multifamily Housing Program’s Office of Recapitalization team, on both the immediate and surrounding neighborhood. We sent a team to explore the conversion experience of Cayce Place in Nashville, Tennessee.

During our visit to Cayce Place, we met individually with three current residents, two of whom serve as officers of the Resident Association.

In addition to these residents, we also spoke with the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency's (MDHA) Executive Director, the MDHA Director of Communications, and a Nashville City Councilman whose district includes this community.

The History

Cayce Place sits in the middle of a mostly residential, mixed-income area in East Nashville, just across the Cumberland River from downtown.

“Cayce’s proximity to Downtown Nashville and the skyrocketing costs of downtown living has poised East Nashville to attract new residents and make this community a place of equity and opportunity in housing for folks of all income levels.” —Jim Harbison, MDHA Executive Director

Prior to the start of redevelopment, “Current Cayce,” as the residents call it, had a total of 786 units, all of which were converted under RAD to Project-Based Vouchers in 2018.

Cayce Place is one of many public housing projects of the MDHA, Nashville’s one-stop shop for affordable housing. The RAD conversion of Cayce Place is the centerpiece of MDHA’s rental housing preservation strategy.

THe Transformation

Beginning 2013, MDHA brought together public housing residents, nearby neighbors, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders for a series of focus group sessions. Brett Withers, a city councilman whose district includes Cayce Place, explained the City Council's role in the planning process and his participation in the focus group sessions.

From these sessions, the Envision Cayce Master Plan was developed and approved by the community to transform Cayce Place into a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood that includes 11 acres of active green space, new educational opportunities, and other amenities such as a new school, health center, pharmacy, grocery, library, and retailers.

Once approved, the implementation plan began. When Envision Cayce is completed, the number of units will have increased to 2,700.

Barrett Manor was the first completed Envision Cayce project. Construction was completed in the spring of 2018.


Audrey Bone has been a Cayce Place resident for 17 years—coming to Barrett Manor was her first ever move to a brand-new rental home .

“Everything was so new, I even have a washer/dryer connection and a beautiful view of the City.”

John Zirker has been President of the Resident Association for 13 of his 20 years at Cayce Place. Getting involved is part of his nature, as community service means a lot to him.

Mr. Zirker said that by living in Cayce Place and having a leadership role, he’s “had an opportunity to learn more,” such as:

  • How to speak publicly
  • How to dress professionally
  • How to conduct meetings according to Roberts Rules of Order
  • How to represent and serve your community
“All of these opportunities were part of my recovery, of being transformed to a new life”

When first hearing about the Envision Cayce Plan, Mr. Zirker got very emotional—“it’s hard to hear that they are going demolish your home.” The Community Guide to Envision Cayce helped him get comfortable with the plan.

“RAD was like a breath of fresh air,” he said later, “RAD is as good as corn bread!”

Marilyn Greer, a resident for six years, serves as Vice President of the Resident Association. She lives in “current Cayce” with three teenage granddaughters.

Ms. Greer is high-energy and a natural organizer, and not long after she settled into the community she noticed things that could be better. So she got involved by first taking on the community-wide yard sales and then special events, like an Easter egg hunt for the community’s children. She has also formed a girls' club to help 13- to 18-year-olds learn to love and value themselves.

Ms. Greer looks forward to having a brand-new home when the next phase is completed.

“I like the idea of a mixed-income community, having all kinds of people in the community.”

What is RAD?

RAD is administered by HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs. RAD allows public housing agencies and owners of other HUD-assisted properties to convert units from their original sources of financing to project-based Section 8 contracts. These new contracts provide a reliable source of operating subsidy that enables property owners to leverage private capital, such as debt and equity, to finance new construction and/or rehabilitation of rental housing.

The Envision Cayce Master Redevelopment Plan has 23 phases. When all phases are complete there will be a total of 2,700 new units. 1,038 of these are affordable housing units, including the 786 RAD conversions.


Photos and Story by Heather Hill.

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