Charleston Land Transfer Steps Towards More Affordable Housing

By Barney Blakeney

City of Charleston officials last week transferred about 1.4 acres of land near Meeting Street and Lee Street from the City of Charleston to the Charleston Housing Authority for the development of 60 units of affordable rental and ownership housing for citizens with very low, low and moderate incomes.

Charleston Mayor John J. Tecklenburg (seated right), City Councilmembers and Housing Authority members and President/CEO Donald Cameron(seated left) during real estate closing for the transfer of land near Meeting Street and Lee Street

There will be a total of 55 rental units available:

     · 25 one-bedroom units for elderly households or individuals earning between 30 to 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) – about $14,000-$23,000 annually

     · 5 two-bedroom units for households or individuals earning 30 to 50 percent of the AMI

     · 5 three-bedroom units for households or individuals earning 30 to 50 percent of the AMI

     · 20 two-bedroom units for households or individuals earning up to 150 percent of the AMI

In addition to the rental units, there will be five three-bedroom homes for households earning up to 120 percent of the AMI – about $71,000 annually. The sites for the homes will be owned and managed by the Palmetto Community Land Trust, the nonprofit organization developed by the City of Charleston in partnership with Historic Charleston Foundation.

The project is expected to cost about $15-16 million. In addition to the land, the city of Charleston will contribute $2 million and CHA will cover the remaining cost through a Bank of America loan, which will be paid back using the rental revenues. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2018 and will take about two years to complete.

Mayor Tecklenburg said, “In a time when affordable and workforce housing is crucial to the livability of our community, we’re excited about the Housing Authority’s plans for this site. This project is a great opportunity for our city, and we look forward to the day when hundreds of our citizens—from maintenance and hospitality workers to school teachers and firefighters—will be able to call these affordable new units home.”

In a city where economic diversity is rapidly disappearing low income affordable housing continues to be a challenge. Charleston officials are attempting to offer more housing opportunities to lower income residents however. Charleston Housing and Community Development Director Geona Johnson said city officials are looking at various tools and strategies to create more low income affordable housing opportunities.

In addition to the 60 units immediately planned for what will be called the Grace Homes, another 238 housing units eventually are planned to be constructed. Approximately 140 of those units will be available to low and moderate income residents, Johnson said. She said also planned are 42 West Ashley units – The Oaks at DuPont – which currently are in the design stage. The senior citizens residences will be available to those earning 60 percent of the median income or about $28,000 annually. Seven to nine single family detached homes are being planned for the Maryville community where the city already has purchased three lots, she said. The homes will be available to families of four earning 80 percent of the median income or about $53,000 annually.

If a $20 million bond referendum that may be on the November municipal ballot is approved, it will provide funding for opportunities to leverage partnerships with other agencies to produce low income affordable housing, she said. And city officials are hoping state legislators will adopt legislation that requires developers to construct low income affordable housing opportunities in all future projects. Local governments are beginning to recognize the tremendous need to produce low income and workforce housing, she said.

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