City of Charleston working to address need for affordable housing

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – There’s a growing need for affordable housing in the City of Charleston. Some say if the need isn’t not addressed soon, it could be come a major problem as population continues to grow.

Some projects are in process across the city including a 12-unit affordable housing complex located at 275 Huger Street which will be replaced with new a building that will hold 85 mixed income affordable housing units. Even with the projects in the motion, some fear the issue isn’t being handled quickly enough.

“I do call it a crisis because your people who need affordable housing are your policemen, your firemen, the people who work in the city,” says Stanley Huff, a longtime Charleston Area Realtor with AgentOwned Realty in Mount Pleasant.

A recent study conducted by the city shows roughly 42% of all Charleston city residents are cost burden when it comes to paying for housing. Those in the category are spending more than 30% of their income on a place to live.

“The need for affordable housing is certainly prevalent in the City of Charleston,” says Geona Shaw-Johnson, Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development for the city.

Projects like Grace Homes and the 85 units coming on Huger street are attempts to close the gap between availability and demand. Huff says there should be a collaborative effort among all involved parties to find a better solution.

“The municipalities, the developers and the builders and also the land donors really have to come together to figure out a better way to do it,” says Huff.

Shaw-Johnson says she and other leaders are partnering with developers to increase builds while looking for grants and reviewing city policies to open the door for more housing.

“Evaluating it’s zoning incentives to determine how we can be more effective in creating zoning that helps to facilitate affordable housing,” says Shaw-Johnson.

One obvious problem for leaders is a lack of space for new construction across the city. Huff says one viable option could be building units above existing or new shopping centers or simply building taller buildings north of the city in the neck of the Peninsula.

“Higher density is a way to create more units and the more units you create per cost per land, the more affordable it’s going to be,” says Huff.

The same study says the City of Charleston could need to build more than 16,000 affordable housing units by 2030 for several levels of income residents in the City of Charleston.

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