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Waring Suggests Plan To Increase Low Income Housing
8/26/2015 3:16:00 PM

City Councilman Perry Keith Waring
Staff Reports

The plight of West Ashley residents recently required to move out of subsidized low income housing after new owners decided to lease the apartments on the open market at open market rental rates alerted more observers to the dilemma many face regarding affordable housing.

Several Charleston city councilmen were asked what affordable housing means in a city with some of the nation’s highest housing costs. One responded that affordable housing doesn’t exist. Another said the days of federally subsidized affordable housing are over. But City Councilman Perry Keith Waring has an idea he thinks could triple and perhaps quadruple the city’s existing stock of low income affordable housing.

Waring said we haven’t been thinking outside the box. Most of us have been thinking in locked step with long-existing concepts of providing low income affordable housing - build a few units here and there that offer a few apartments which might accommodate some of the thousands of applicants on local waiting lists for housing opportunities.

Waring thinks an initiative to build at the former Cooper River bridges site at Meeting and Lee streets offers the possibility to clear those waiting lists and house even more residents.

Currently the city plans to build a diverse community at the 8.5 acre site that offers some low income affordable housing in addition to home ownership and commercial opportunities. But Waring says if planners think outside the box the site could be used to construct housing similar to that already being produced in the private sector - high-rise, high density, modern efficient housing three or four stories high.

He thinks the concept could be duplicated at all the peninsula’s public housing complexes, ultimately tripling or quadrupling the number of existing low income affordable housing units.

“Look at what’s happened at the Midtown Project’s housing complex at Spring and Meeting streets. The same thing is happening on the upper peninsula from Huger to Romney streets. If the private sector can do it, why can’t the city?” Waring suggests.

The city plans to transfer ownership of property at the Cooper River bridges site to Charleston Housing Authority which will be used to construct some new low income affordable housing. Waring, a financial advisor whose company has built apartments, an office park and a housing subdivision, said if the housing authority uses the land to build multi-story buildings it could increase the number of clients served exponentially.

And instead of bringing in new clients off waiting lists, he suggests moving current tenants of complexes in other parts of the city into the new apartments. When the old complexes are empty demolish them and repeat the multi-story construction at the old site. The process could be repeated at all the housing authority’s peninsula sites, he believes. No residents would be displaced from the peninsula, more units would become available and the revenue from those increased units could make the project sustainable.

A lot of the cost would be removed since the housing authority already owns its land. Without the profit motive, the increased revenue from the increased number of units would attract financing, Waring believes.

For those who need convincing his concept has merit, Waring simply says, “We know what private developers would do with those properties if they could buy them from the housing authority. If the private sector can do it, why can’t the city?”

Waring says the right combination exists to embark of such an ambitious project - city council’s composition of housing, finance and legal experts and low interests rates. He also thinks the discussion should begin before the November 3 mayoral election.

“I think we have to elevate the conversation or we may be looking at the last generation of African Americans on the peninsula,” he said.

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: JW Submitted: 8/28/2015
Yes lets triple the number of low income units in the city. So that means triple the number of people (lets say 4 or 5 per apartment) that is a huge number of people not paying any property taxes or any other taxes to support the schools which will be flooded with kids, further pushing the schools to the brink of collapse, city resources for fire, police, social services will also be stretched to the breaking point. Just where does Mr Waring think this money is going to come from? The federal government is getting out of the housing business. HUD and all Federal funding will probably be gone in ten years. Who will pay for the maintainance and upkeep? I guess he thinks middle class taxpayers will pay the bill (as they are already doing). Fat cat developers and political hacks will get millions in their pockets from their funding sources. They will build cheap apartment complexes that will be falling apart and crime ridden within a decade and the taxpayer will be writing the checks ag

Submitted By: Jim Ward Submitted: 5/18/2016
I kinda take another view of this and feel compelled to say something since the other fellow has my initials. Basically, the land is too expensive to put low income housing unless the City already owns it. Is this so? In any case, the argument for diverse communities cannot be distilled down to paying more taxes. There is another kind of community cost in having poor minorities (perhaps your city's service workers) having to commute so far - transport, for example. In any case, the erosion in school budgets seems a mute point since this is a county-wide effort. In any case, the various initiatives to make more and more of our tax base come from sales tax means that the poor folks are paying more than the rich for basic services. So... I say ...share your community! But, getting back to my original point, we need to get a handle on land costs before any of this makes any sense. We should be land banking land in advance of the developers.

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