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Affordable Senior Citizens Housing Not So Affordable To Blacks
5/29/2013 12:46:41 PM

Charleston community activist Jerome Smalls Friday led a protest at the opening celebration of Piccolo Spoleto at Broad and Meeting streets carrying signs that said Mayor Joseph Riley’s redevelopment policies led to the demolition of public housing units at the site where the new Williams Terrace apartment building will be constructed.

By Barney Blakeney 

The Charleston Housing Authority announced last week it will build a new apartment building for senior citizens at the former site of the Ansonborough Homes public housing complex on Washington Street. The new apartments will accommodate seniors with incomes between $28,000 and $31,000 annually. Low income citizens need not apply.

James Elliott, a 66-year-old peninsula Charleston resident said he has lived downtown most of his life and wants to continue living there, but the opportunities for affordable housing to senior citizens who are low income is rapidly disappearing, he said.

Elliott, who has worked in the downtown service industry the past 40 years, said he is dismayed that eventually he’ll be forced to leave the communities where he’s lived all his life.
“If you’re not making at least $30,000 a year, you can forget about living downtown. There’s only a few places left where someone making that kind of money can live,” he said.

Terrence Smalls, a retired educator, said that means more Blacks who have lived on the peninsula all their lives will be displaced. The downtown Charleston native who now lives West Ashley said the announcement of the construction of Williams Terrace on Washington Street also announces that low income Blacks no longer will have a home downtown.

“I had a good job in the school system. In retirement I’m making about $33,000 a year. But most of my friends don’t make that much. One of my friends who worked in recreation, is making less than a thousand dollars a month. We grew up in the same neighborhood, but he’s in North Charleston now. He can’t afford to live downtown.”

Low income affordable housing on the peninsula mostly is limited to Charleston Housing Authority’s properties - project complexes and scattered site housing. A few complexes and apartment buildings are available to low income senior citizens. But low income families have been displaced.
Ellioitt said the reality of affordable housing is tied to the racism that is so inherent in the Charleston community. Housing pattrerns are a blatant example of that racism.

“The average white person earns more than the average Black person, so when it comes to who can afford to live downtown, you know who that’s going to be,” Elliott said.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census the median income for whites in the Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester region is about $56,000 annually while the median income for Blacks is about $30,000 annually.

Charleston Dist. 4 City Councilman Robert Mitchell represents the area of Ansonborough where the new building will be constructed.

“Affordable means who ever can afford it,” he said of the new apartment building. “Housing for low income people is not going to be built in Ansonborough. Property down there is just too expensive. With everything that’s in that area, low income housing is not going to happen. We knew that when Ansonborough Homes was demolished,” he said.

Charleston Housing Authority Executive Directior Don Cameron maintains Williams Terrace is affordable for low income residents. Rental costs for apartments is based on federal guidelines that establilsh low income status for those earning 85 percent or less of regional median income. The rent for Williams Terrace apartments is rated at 65 percent of the regional median income, he said.
In addition to 40 units at 670 King St. and 19 at William Enston Homes at King and Huger streets, there are 11 units on Nunan Street owned by the authority that accommodate senior citizens which rent for $530 per month. The lack of federal subsidies make Williams Terrace and some other units more expensive, he said. 

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