By Barney Blakeney
May 30 the City of Charleston and the Charleston Citywide Local Development Corporation (LDC) announced that Mayor John J. Tecklenburg and former Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. have entered an agreement that will make another $19 million available to help address the City’s growing affordable housing problem. May 16 city and neighborhood officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony for seven new affordable housing units constructed in the Ashleyville/Maryville neighborhood. Those units were made available through a $20 million affordable housing bond approved by Charleston voters in 2017.
Charleston Director of Housing & Community Development Geona Johnson said with the additional funding the city from 2020-2024 will construct over 600 new affordable housing units. While all the money from the 2017 bond acquisition has been expended the new money will allow for additional land acquisition, financing and assistance with down payments. Several organizations have requested allocations from the funds, she said.
The initiatives that grow from the funding will impact residents in a wide range of incomes beginning at 30 percent (about $15,000 annually) of the metropolitan median income which is about $74,000 annually, Johnson said. She noted the city considers 65 percent of the median income as ‘low income,’ Johnson said. Residents earning 30 percent–50 percent of the median income are considered ‘very low’ or ‘extremely low’ income. The funding will help provide rental opportunities for those residents, she said.
Johnson said it is important that whatever projects are developed include a mixed range of income earners so the resource can be maintained over time. Rental revenues often don’t cover the cost of maintaining the resource over the long term, she explained. Considering the high cost of construction several funding sources usually are required to make developments work.
Johnson acknowledged the demand for housing affordable to all residents is greater than the supply, but local communities finally are starting to make a dent in addressing the need, she said. She thinks the City of Charleston is leading the way and outpaces other municipalities. But local governments are becoming smarter and more strategic as federal funding declines, she added.
“The goal is to leverage the dollars available as much as possible and to get a return on those dollars,” she said.