According to the Housing Affordability Assessment conducted by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, over 77,000 existing households, or one-third of the population in the region, pay more than 50% of their income on housing needs.
There is tremendous need for affordable housing throughout the Lowcountry. Vital members of our community-- teachers, firefighters, policemen, paramedics, and service industry workers- cannot afford to house their families. We also have a growing population of elderly citizens, as well as those who have physical or mental challenges, who need clean and decent housing.
Statistics compiled by the federal government indicate that over 45% of households in the Lowcountry earn less than $44,700. People earning these wages simply cannot afford the cost of housing and generally must devote over half their income to shelter. This growing demand is not enough to attract the investment required to serve this market and the lack of capital frequently impedes progress.
Increasingly, families have found it difficult to purchase or rent a home that is located in the area in which they work, and that is adequate for their needs. In response, many families have taken to "driving for affordability", or "drive till you qualify" to own or rent a decent home with quality schools and a low crime rate. As a result, average commuting time has expanded and ownership of a car is a necessity. This trend has caused congestion and the need to enlarge the highway system at huge costs. It has fueled home-building, but some municipalities have found it is difficult or impossible to generate enough new revenue from development to sustain or expand the infrastructure needed.
Many developers in the Lowcountry struggle with stringent preservation codes, high cost of hurricane resistant building materials, high land costs, high insurance costs, an older housing stock, and an aging population. Coastal, historic and unaffordable do not have to be synonymous.
South Carolina needs a strategy to assure decent housing for people at all income levels.