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Housing And Racism Must Be Addressed To Impact Charleston Diversity
11/5/2014 2:54:00 PM

Kwadjo Campbell

Keith Waring
Staff Reports

Recent news series on the changing racial demographics of the Charleston peninsula and the city cite various factors which contributed to a population shift that has seen the number of Black residents decline from a 70 percent majority to a less than 30 percent minority. Left out of the equation was racism.

Former Charleston City Councilman Kwadjo Campbell is considered by many among the most vociferous forecasters of the gentrification that has reduced Black presence on the peninsula and in the city. Campbell who currently resides in Greenville, distinguished himself as an astute advocate for political and economic inclusion during his tenure from 1998-2005.

Asked how much of a role racism has played in declining Black population in the city, Campbell responded with a laugh, choosing instead to focus on the future. “The type of losses the Black community in Charleston has experienced can’t be recouped,” he said. “What we can do is preserve what we have left and that means building more low to moderate income housing stock in the city and surrounding areas that will target income earners who make $19,000-$50,000 annually.

The city’s administration embarked on a campaign to develop high-end housing stock such as the Daniel Island and Longborough communities. Some housing affordable to income earners in the $50,000-$80,000 range were developed, but those opportunities could not be consumed by residents of the city’s traditional Black communities.

Still some opportunities for low to moderate income affordable housing exists, he says. Development projects at the vacant site of the old Cooper River bridges at Lee and Meeting streets, the west side’s Horizon Project, proposals for the Neck Area and Cainhoy Village East Cooper offer such opportunities, Campbell said. Campbell plans to present his ideas for those opportunities at a Nov. 11 educational forum at Burke High School in downtown Charleston.

In an atmosphere of waning of federal subsidies, Campbell says public/private collaborations could work to maintain the diversity rapidly being lost in Charleston communities.

Charleston City Councilman Perry Keith Waring agrees. He said Monday Charleston must begin to plan for racial diversity just as it plans other aspects of community life. Those plans should include the city’s administration using property it already owns, like the former Cooper River bridge site to develop low to moderate income affordable housing stock. The city also owns a significant number of other properties, he said.

The city hasn’t done a good job of producing affordable housing, Waring said. He noted the city’s sale of property on Meeting Street (the old SCE&G bus barn) deeded to it from the S.C. Dept, of Transportation to the Charleston School of the Building Arts. That property or its revenue could have funded affordable housing construction, he said.

Pointing to past developments like the Westchester subdivision on James Island, Orleans Woods and the Ashleyville and Maryville communities West Ashley, Waring said opportunities for the creation of low to moderate income affordable housing abound.

Still one local realtor said despite the options that may exist the issue of racism also must be addressed. She said in many instances Blacks in the financial position to buy homes often are denied loans due to the discriminatory practices of lending institutions. Unless those issues are addressed, Blacks may continue to be excluded in the diversity of the City of Charleston.

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: DebC Submitted: 11/5/2014
At what time will the educational forum be held on Nov. 11?

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