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Charleston Business

Charleston Metro Chamber Works for Affordable and Attainable Housing

Sep 20, 2022 04:46PM ● By Craig Logan

The American dream is sought after by many who are natives to this country and those who have migrated here, yet for many people, the state of the current housing crisis in America makes that dream just that, a dream.

Housing continues to remain a critical issue in the Charleston metro area. In the Tri-County region, purchase and rental prices continue to increase, and for many of these dreamers, affordable rentals are now the reality they face.

The Charleston Metro Chamber has made attainable housing a priority as we serve as a convener for businesses, communities, and government in our region. As a result, I am convening the first Regional Housing Coalition to work collectively as a region on our housing crisis. 

If you’ve been paying attention to anything recently on housing, you probably have seen the terms “affordable housing” and “attainable housing” used interchangeably. They both sound the same to many people, but there are key differences in these terms.

Affordable housing refers to housing for which the occupants are paying no more than 30 percent of household income for gross housing costs, including utilities. The term is often used to refer to income- or rent-restricted housing. References also often connect the term to households earning a percentage range of the Area Median Income (AMI), for example, <60 percent AMI, 60-80 percent AMI, or >80 percent AMI.

Attainable housing is often used in reference to housing that is affordable to all households, from those who are homeless to the affluent.  It is usually used to talk about housing where the housing cost and utilities make up no more than 30 percent of the family’s gross household income.

Other terms you’ve most likely heard are:

Cost-burdened: Housing cost, such as mortgage or rent, utilities and taxes account for 30 percent or more of household income. 

Area median income: Used to define income eligibility, the AMI is determined on an annual basis by HUD.

It is estimated that 76,000 Charleston metro-area households were classified as housing-cost-burdened in 2019 by the Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS. We recognize that this number has most likely increased as rents continue to rise, making it harder for households to find attainable housing. It is also estimated that we will need 112,309 housing units in our region between 2015-2030 to keep up with the increasing demand. Nearly half of these homes should be priced for households earning $50,000 or less annually. 

There is about a 1.1-month supply of new construction homes, while there is a 0.6-month supply of previously owned homes on the market. In 2021, a listed home was shown about 7.5 times before it became unavailable. Homes are simply not on the market long and, for many seeking to purchase homes; this is an issue. 

The median home price in 2021 jumped to 16.9 percent over the 2020 price to $346,900, the highest increase since 1999, according to the National Association of REALTORS

Renters are also feeling the burden as they saw increases in their prices. National rent prices have increased by 11.3 percent, according to Costar group. Locally, the Tri-County region has seen rent increases of 19.6 percent since 2019.  

Some of the average rental prices in the region’s areas are listed below:

Average Rent Price      Average Apartment Size by Sq.

Charleston $1,720*       966 sq. ft.

Summerville $1,358*    1,007 sq. ft. 

North Charleston $1,399*         971 sq. ft.

Goose Creek $1,413*    1,085 sq. ft.

Hanahan $1,356*                      1035 sq. ft.

*One-bedroom apartments are closer to the average, while two- and three-bedroom apartments offer a more generous square footage.

Here’s what to consider.

As prices increase, more people are taking advantage of property that can rack in some incredible profits. More homes are being built and listed in Goose Creek/Moncks Corner, with prices increasing by 16.6 percent since 2020. This area provides more land that developers can build more housing on.

Berkeley County had the greatest increase in housing sales closings last year, with Dorchester County close behind and leaving Charleston County to come in last.  

Berkeley County closed sales increased = 10.3 percent

Dorchester County closed sales increased = 8.8 percent

Charleston County increased = 4.4 percent

*Source: Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS

There is a great migration happening in Berkeley and Dorchester Counties. What is driving this migration? The higher cost of living is causing more people to move farther to find housing that fits their budget. As the search for more affordable housing drives residents farther out, should these growing counties be proactive in working toward the need for more attainable housing? What can be done regionally to fight the need? 

Many models around the country have created coalitions to combat housing needs:

The Greenville Housing Fund, launched in 2018 as a response to affordability reports, works to provide opportunities to create more affordable housing by acquisition, gap and bridge financing and homeownership preservation programs. 

The Virginia Housing Alliance was formed because of a merger between organizations that recognized the housing need in the state. As a unit, the alliance has advocated for policy that encourages more affordable housing opportunities for all.  

This collaborative effort has not been seen in our region. As many developers and affordable housing experts commented, there needs to be a regional effort to tackle this issue in the Lowcountry.

The Regional Housing Coalition will be the first of its kind in the area to work toward regional housing needs and was created to bridge regional efforts in the housing space working with all who are interested. The mission of the Regional Housing Coalition is to create a region that provides attainable housing choices for all and always striving to do what is right, not what is easy. This coalition will be open to all and I encourage those that are interested in making a difference in our housing crisis to join us.

Craig Logan is Housing Executive Fellow at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at [email protected].