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Commentary: Act UNITED For More Affordable Housing

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By: Sarah DeWolf
Trident United Way, Public Policy Committee Chair

DeWolf

You can make a difference this election day by supporting affordable housing in the form of two referenda in Charleston County. The needs are greater now than ever before.

The Tri-County region has gained more than 238,000 residents in the past 20 years. This puts a pinch on our most vulnerable residents, especially during the global pandemic.

The recent Self Sufficiency Standard Study which was done for Trident United Way shows in Charleston, an adult with one preschool child needs to make nearly $23 per hour just to make ends meet. The study also shows the Tri-County is one of the most expensive places to live in South Carolina.

The median home price in Charleston County has increased by 39% since 2013, from $229,000 to $317,000. In this same time, median incomes in Charleston County have increased by just 18%, from $51,771 to $61,367.

Housing costs have risen at twice the rate of incomes.

Our community is at a crossroads and we must take action to live united to take on this housing crunch. We can all help by supporting two referendum questions Charleston County voters will be asked on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The first question asks residents to approve a two mill tax to fund a Local Housing Trust to finance affordable housing initiatives which will be overseen by a third party and must comply with state laws for housing bonds.

The second question would issue up to $130 million in general obligation bonds which are payable from the two mill tax.

The potential tax increase of two mills equals $8 per $100,000 of personal property. The median Charleston County homeowner would see their property tax bill increase by $24 per year – that’s less than one dinner at many restaurants!

The Trident United Way board supports these initiatives to keep up with the growing needs for regional affordable housing. In 2017, our board supported a $20 million affordable housing referendum in the City of Charleston which voters approved by a 70% to 30% margin.

This year’s larger package will be a boost to affordable housing supply which the stats show is a pressing issue for many.

A Trident United Way analysis shows 33% of families in Charleston County face a severe housing burden, meaning they spend 50% or more of their income on housing.

Behind these stats are individuals and families trying to make ends meet. This includes all residents without regard to race, religion and educational level.

Our region is an incredible one to call home. There’s a reason why we love living here and why Charleston continually ranks as a top tourism destination.

Those great rankings come at a cost and we all must act UNITED to ensure our friends and neighbors can enjoy a great quality of life with safe and secure housing they can afford.

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