CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) held a press conference Tuesday morning calling on Charleston County Council to address ongoing area housing issues.

CAJM invited community members to the Lonnie Hamilton Building calling on the Charleston County Council to establish generous funding towards an affordable housing trust fund.

According to CAJM, Charleston County is set to receive $80 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars which were expected to be used to help ease public health and economic difficulties fronted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are told by HUD that housing that is affordable is housing that does not make up more than 30% of your income,” says Reverend Charles Heyward of Edisto Presbyterian. “Right now, over 200,000 families in the Charleston area spend more than that; many spend half their income on housing”

CAJM says that the pandemic further worsened the housing crisis as other cities across the country continue to use their ARPA funds towards housing trust funds to build affordable housing. Officials also report that $40 million in ARPA funds were used for items “not at a crisis level.”

“Our hourly wage working community is forced further out, away from jobs, making traffic woes worse and severely impacting their quality of life as they either drive long distances in their cars or sit for hours on a bus,” says Reverend Heyward. “Our young adults are forced to put their lives on hold as they share housing with 3,4,5 people just to afford to stay in the communities in which they’ve grown up.”

Reverend Heyward also addresses the senior population stating that their fixed income hardly covers the increasing housing costs, “placing them under considerable stress and forcing many of them to call on their own children to financially contribute.”

Officials are pushing for Charleston County Council to use $20 million of the remaining $40 million to fund a housing trust and another $10 million to alleviate the housing crisis.