Map Quest: Nashville Residential Building Permits

Strap on your tool belt, we’re talkin’ ’bout building permits! Specifically, we’re dipping our toes into the building of new homes in Nashville, Tennessee, where we mourn the loss of former resident Swizzle Stick to the Big Apple. Bye, Tay-Tay!

Nashville’s real estate market has been on fire the last few years, and there’s much discussion in the local media about how the rising sales prices and rents are affecting the growing population. Looking at building permit data, specifically permits for new residences (not demolitions or rehabs, which would be interesting to see) would… permit me… to accomplish a few things:

  1. Use Nashville’s public data web site
  2. See if information on building permits coincides with the fastest growing Nashville neighborhoods
  3. Broaden my R knowledge by trying to make a map.

I’ve been getting pretty good at making charts in R, but whenever I’d see some egghead make an awesome map, I’d get envious. Learning that R demi-god Hadley Wickham has co-developed a package within R to make maps, using ggmap (the package) and Nashville data was a no brainer.

Without further ado, here’s where building permits for new residences have been distributed in Nashville. The lighter the blue, the more permits in that area.


If you’re familiar with neighborhoods in Nashville, most new residences seem to be in East Nashville and southwest of downtown. Let’s focus in closer to downtown.


Now we can really see the density of building permits for new residences in East Nashville, as well as the Hillsboro/12South (south of downtown) and Sylvan Park/West Nashville areas. This isn’t too surprising. We could look at these last two places, but let’s take one more zoomed in look at yuppie/hipster central, East Nashville.


Everyone is trying to build as close to Five Points as possible (without going west of Gallatin Pike).

The locations of new residential building permits show where homeowners and investors are remaking Nashville’s housing supply. It doesn’t explain the consequences of this building – the gentrification, huge rents, and traffic (to name a few) – but it does confirm that people trying to live in the city are trying to move to the same three or four areas.

(Code and data located here.)


About Jay

Health Policy Wonk. Slow long distance runner. Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Cameroon '06-'08. Former Night owl.
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