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Affordable Housing Policies Mayoral Candidates Should Be Talking About
Published:
10/28/2015 5:12:30 PM


 
By Kwadjo & Rashida Jeffers- Campbell


The mayoral candidates didn’t ask our opinion, but here are our policy recommendations for affordable housing. We have spent considerable time researching and studying the affordable housing crisis in the City of Charleston and have come up with a number of short term and long term solutions that can be pursued by local and state government officials.

We think that the climate has created a pivotal shift in race related discussions involving symbols and institutions of the confederacy, and within our city the spirit of goodwill has given us hope that policies can be implemented that preserves the African- American communities in the Charleston region.

Charleston’s tremendous growth and development has presented local government with the challenge of maintaining the rich diversity that characterizes her.

The low to moderate income African- American communities in Downtown Charleston, John’s Island, West Ashley, and North Charleston are going to disappear if local governments fail to work on solutions to provide affordable housing for people making 30% to 80% of the median income.

Gentrification is more than just economics- the removal of traditional residents for more affluent ones. Yes, it is a shift in a community from poor to wealthier residents, businesses accompanied by higher taxes and higher rents.

But, it is also the loss of culture, and the loss of heritage. It is the loss of African American churches, landmarks, and mom and pop shops. It is the loss of diversity in a city that has been defined and shaped by it. Local governments in the Charleston region must act fast to address the challenges to prevent such catastrophic losses.

   The following list are Well Known and often quoted obstacles to Affordable Housing:
• Competitive real estate market
• Land & construction cost versus Income
• Limited & decreasing federal funds
• Cost & requirement of historic preservation
• Resurgence of urban centers as a national trend
• Regulatory practices and limited incentives

What is not well known is the following list of what we term as the “Underlying Principles for Affordable Housing Policies & Development Incentives”:
• Define “affordable” in terms of maintaining/ encouraging cultural & economic diversity
• Historic preservation as a value and practice is crucial for realizing the full economic potential of Charleston’s tourism market.
• Gentrification is a threat to historically significant African American communities that underpin the very fabric of Charleston’s economy, history and unique cultural heritage.
• Affordable housing is a city-wide issue that compromises public welfare. Consequently, government has a role in “setting the stage” for more balanced housing development.
• The rate of gentrification requires a hands on approach by the local government and strong market-based incentives to encourage balanced development.

The term “affordable housing” is relative in that it has less to do with the price of a particular home in a given neighborhood and more to do with a household’s financial ability to qualify for, purchase, and maintain a home close to where they work, where their children go to school, where they worship, or simply where they would choose to live.

Affordable housing ownership as that for which housing costs do not exceed 28% of annual gross income for a household earning no more than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Housing costs include mortgage, taxes and insurance, amortization, and any association or regime fees.

In terms of rental housing, the PIA and HUD defines affordability as housing in which combined rent and utilities do not exceed 30% of the annual household income for a household earning no more than 80% of the AMI. The majority of the residents in the census tracks under threat of Gentrification fall in the income range of 30% to 80% of the median income. To maintain the diversity of Charleston, housing needs to be developed for this group of the population in the Charleston Metropolitan Area.

So what can be done? Certainly we are not the only city dealing with this issue, and by studying them, we have developed solutions for our beloved city. The following is a list of short term and long term policy recommendations will address affordable housing and the loss of diversity.

Short Term
• Priority Investment Overlay Zones to encourage affordable housing development in preservation areas with the use of market—based incentives. Overlay zones are authorized as a planning and land development regulation tool by state law. An overlay zone is a set of secondary regulations that apply on top of the base or underlying zoning district and the standards of both apply to developments proposed in the two zones, unless base district regulations are preempted by the overlay regulations. Under the PIA, a priority investment zone can be created as an overlay zone to encourage private development of affordable housing. Zoning and development standards pursuant to the overlay that could be relaxed may include setbacks, density, permitting procedures, utility tap fees, impact fees, adequate public facilities requirements, etc.
• Incentivized Affordable Housing Zoning for rental and homeownership to ensure that communities are economically integrated and households of modest means are allowed to access a range of opportunities and services city-wide. Incentivized Zoning is a legal tool which mandates the private sector include a percentage of affordable units as part of a market rate development. A typical incentivized zoning ordinance will set forth a minimum percentage of affordable units to be provided in a specific development for household incomes within a certain range. Rental developments providing 5 or more units must make 20% of the units affordable to families with household incomes at 30-80% of AMI. Affordable units must remain affordable for 20 years. Homeownership developments providing 5 or more units must make 20% of the units affordable to families with household incomes at 80-100% of the AMI. Affordable units must remain affordable for 15 years.
• An affordable housing bond to address the gap between time and opportunity by developing the available large parcels of land remaining in the City.
• Committing a dedicated revenue source to support the initiatives of the SC Community Loan Fund based in North Charleston, SC (formerly Lowcountry Housing Trust)
• One-stop shop for developers and residents regarding the affordable units and incentives.

Long Term
• Amend the SC Development Impact Fee Act to include affordable housing as an authorized fee as permitted in other States. Cities can then establish affordable housing impact fees for market rate rental and homeownership development to create a pool of funds available for the development of affordable housing in the absence of general fund allocations and decreasing federal support.
 

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