By Barney Blakeney
When it rains it pours. Affordable housing construction is beginning to pour onto the Lee and Meeting streets footprint of the site of the old Cooper River bridges on the peninsula. Earlier this year, construction began on the Grace Homes project. And since October 10, groundbreaking for construction of other affordable housing initiatives have been held.
Construction of the Grace Homes project is well underway – about 45 percent are complete currently.
The project encompasses 62 units that include:
· 25 one-bedroom rental units for elderly households or individuals earning between 30 to 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI)
· five two-bedroom rental units for households or individuals earning 30 to 50 percent of the AMI
· four three-bedroom rental units for households or individuals earning 30 to 50 percent of the AMI
· 22 two-bedroom (workforce) rental units for households or individuals earning up to 150 percent of the AMI. In addition to the rental units, there will be six three-bedroom homeownership units for households earning up to 120 percent of the AMI – about $71,000 annually. Sixty more units are planned for the site in the future.
October 10, Mayor John Tecklenburg, members of City Council, Palmetto Community Action Partnership (formerly Charleston County Human Services Commission), Charleston Citywide Local Development Corporation, OPTUS Bank and the Eastside Community Development Corporation joined for the groundbreaking of two buildings at 105 Hanover St. near Lee Street that will house four rental apartments for persons earning 60 percent and below the Area Median Income or about $31,000 annually.
And on October 18 Charleston Tecklenburg, members of City Council and the Episcopal Diocese of SC Community Housing Development Organization held a ribbon cutting ceremony at a new affordably priced home, located at 32 Nassau Street in Charleston’s Eastside neighborhood. Charleston Director of Housing & Community Development Geona Johnson said another affordably priced home will be constructed at 83 Hanover St. At nearby 180 Place on property at 573 Meeting St. the city will assist the non-profit homeless shelter agency with the construction of 70 units of transitional housing, Johnson said.
Affordable housing construction has been a priority for the Tecklenburg and former Mayor Joseph Riley administrations, Johnson said. To that end the city has partnered with for-profit and non-profit organizations to facilitate it. Some 140 units either have been constructed or are planned for construction under the administrations’ first time homebuyers program, she said.
Johnson said while the city can’t keep pace with the number of market rate units being constructed, the initiatives it’s undertaking helps, especially those who want to live on the peninsula where they work. By 2020 some 600 affordable housing units that include first time homebuyer houses on Nunan Street and Grants Court on the west side, at 87 Cooper St. and 100 units in Orleans Gardens West Ashley will be started.
Johnson said other local governments must engage in the same process. The demand for more affordable housing is not just a Charleston issue, she said. And she encourages residents who want to benefit to prepare themselves financially by strengthening their credit and debt-to-income ratio.