New Housing Development Continues Affordable Housing Dilemma

By Barney Blakeney

A recent news report indicates developers are primed to build 1,000 new homes on Johns Island near Kiawah Island. According to the report, the cost of those homes will begin at $500,000. As undeveloped land around the county becomes targeted for affluent housing, development options for low and moderate income housing continues to be an elusive goal. S.C. House 116 Rep. Robert Brown shared some thoughts about affordable housing development.

Brown’s district, which encompasses the county’s rural sea island communities of Edisto Island, Johns Island and Wadmalaw Island is a focus for new development. According to realtor Doug Holmes of Keller Williams Realtor who provides monthly updates on home sales in the Tri-county region, the median sales price for the 119 homes that sold in Jan.-Feb. on Johns Island was about $300,000. On Wadmalaw Island the median price of the five homes that sold during that period also was about $300,000. Housing costs the further north along the I-26 corridor were cheaper – about $170,000-$220,000. Some 130 homes in that area were sold at those prices.

Rep. Robert Brown

Brown said housing costs are skyrocketing throughout the county and “The American Dream” of homeownership has become unattainable for many. He cited a 2013 Lowcountry Housing Trust Center for Business Research study which shows to be affordable, a worker must earn about $45 per hour to buy a home costing about $300,000. That worker has to earn about $30 per hour to affordably purchase a home costing about $200,000. The study indicated the average worker in the region earned about $20 per hour.

The issue is being compounded and becoming more complicated as more and more affluent housing is developed, Brown said. Areas that once were eligible for state and federal assistance now are excluded because the average income of residents increase, he said. Another consequence is publicly funded sewerage also becomes unavailable and lower income indigenous residents are left without access.

Some lawmakers are trying to develop legislation that offers incentives to developers who build more low to moderate income housing, Brown said. But at the rate of current development, they’re only scratching the surface of the problem. Voters have must insist their representatives push for more affordable housing, Brown said. “We’re not just talking about poor people,” he said. “We’re talking about affordability for policemen and teachers too!”

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