Housing Summit tackles affordability

  • Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Leslie Cantu/Journal Scene Ryan Castle, of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, spoke from the real estate industry’s perspective during Friday’s housing summit.

They’re coming.

Hundreds of thousands of them.

Charlie Smith of the Charleston County Planning Commission said Friday during the Tri-County Housing Summit that 250,000 new residents will come to the area in the next few decades, and he doesn’t know where they’ll live.

“We don’t have anywhere to put these folks. At all,” he said.

The discussion panel during the housing summit looked at the vexing problem of affordable housing in Dorchester, Berkeley and Charleston counties.

According to a February report put out by the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments and the Charleston County Zoning and Planning Department, 30 percent of homeowners and 44 percent of renters in Dorchester County are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income toward housing.

And Dorchester County is one of the more affordable areas in the region.

Local governments need to become more flexible when working with developers, said Ryan Castle of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

Summerville is arguing over whether 800 homes should go in the downtown area in the coming years, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 150,000 or more housing units that will be needed in the region, he said.

Those housing units needn’t all be single-family homes, said Steve Warner, of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

Castle said local governments should be willing to work with developers; for example, to allow smaller lot sizes within a development as long as the overall density within the property remains within local parameters.

Warner also pointed out that housing affordability can affect economic development.

The cities the tri-county area is competing against – Raleigh, Austin, Denver, Nashville – all have higher wages and lower real estate costs, he said.

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