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Where Will All The Poor People Go?
3/26/2014 4:23:11 PM

Hollywood Mayor Jacquelyn Heyward
By Barney Blakeney

Where are all the Black people going to live? It’s a question some have asked as more and more traditionally Black communities are displaced by gentrification.

As Blacks in downtown Charleston experienced the displacement resulting from gentrification and moved in droves to North Charleston and West Ashley, new development spread to the Charleston sea islands and East of the Cooper River.

In traditional Black communities, the population has declined by more than half in many areas like James Island, Johns Island and Mount Pleasant. And now, gentrification is displacing Blacks who sought low housing costs in North Charleston.

For the working poor and the poorest of the poor, low cost housing just isn’t available in the metropolitan areas of the region, said Charleston Housing Authority Executive Director Don Cameron.

Low cost housing affordable to the poor and working poor just doesn’t exist in the region’s urban centers, Cameron said. Those individuals will find they will have to move further up the I-26 corridor. And for poor people already economically challenged, transportation and family support systems that make it easier for them to find employment will become less available, he said.

Hollywood Rep. Robert Brown agrees the poor won’t find housing even in rural communities such as his in the future. Citing a Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Counties Council of Governments housing assessment report, Brown noted that housing costs in the region range from $350,000-$200,000 for average and median cost homes respectively. Wage-earners must earn between $45-$19 per hour to afford those homes, he said.

Hollywood Mayor Jacquelyn Heyward reiterated low income affordable housing no longer exists there. Gentrification is on the rise and low income families are looking to rural areas for housing. But they’re out of luck, she said. While many low income residents own property in rural areas, a variety of dynamics contribute to the challenge of maintaining and constructing adequate housing, she said.

North Charleston contractor Malcolm Wallace said for the past 25 years elected officials have given lip service to developing low income affordable housing, but have failed to back it up with substantive initiatives.

Communities can demand that covenants be placed on developers requiring them to provide low income affordable housing, but that demand has not come, he said. Inclusion in comprehensive development plans and zoning requirements can facilitate low income housing development, he added.

“Elected officials have the opportunity to do something about the availability of low income affordable housing. They need to be held accountable and do something specific other than giving us lip service,” Wallace said.

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