by Michael Samuel
Commercial Portfolio Manager, BB&T of South Carolina
As a 22-year-old single male moving to a brand new city, I had no idea what was in store for me when my company decided to relocate me to the Charleston region.
Prior to my move, I visited the region to find a place to live. Being that I had never been to Charleston, I was excited to explore a new city and learn more about my new job.
Since my new office was downtown, when my boss asked me where I wanted to live I promptly responded “in an apartment downtown!” Being from Atlanta, I figured most of my fellow young professionals lived downtown. My boss gave a sarcastic smile and offered to show me around. Not only was I unable to find something in my price range, the prices were so high that I couldn’t see how any millennial could afford to live downtown without having at least four roommates.
Being the sometimes naïve person that I am I figured there had to be other places in this region that were more affordable. Sadly, to my dismay, I viewed properties in Mount Pleasant, James Island, West Ashley, and Folly Beach and still struggled to find an affordable place to stay. Given my time constraint, I was forced to settle on an apartment that is slightly higher than my budget with the hope of getting a roommate as quickly as possible.
Fast forward two months and I am sitting in a Charleston Young Professionals meeting only to discover that this is a common sentiment among my peers across all industries. Simply put, the cost of living in this region is extremely high. This directly – and negatively – impacts our cash flow.
Then I hear about the idea of “workforce housing” where a certain number of housing units in a complex are priced at a lower rate. This immediately got me excited as I was felt like I was one of the folks who qualified for this. To my dismay, there seems to be this stigma that workforce housing is for “low income” earners.
Allow me to dispel that myth. I am the poster child for why workforce housing is necessary. I am an educated, gainfully employed young professional who is blessed to earn a decent salary. I happily support local businesses and regularly participate in community service. Yet I am still priced out of the housing and rental markets. This, to me, is a shame.
What’s even more disheartening is the fact that solutions around housing affordability are made by people who cannot possibly relate to what so many young professionals are dealing with. In fact, you’re hard-pressed to find any young professionals involved in this conversation at all. I might not have all of the answers, but I do know that middle-aged homeowners should not be the only ones involved in the issue of housing affordability. How can they relate? Who’s really representing us?
We’re not asking for million-dollar homes on Shem Creek; we just want a fair chance at affordable housing. We want to be able to pay rent while also being able to dine on King Street. We want to pay our mortgages and have money left over to enjoy all that our region has to offer.
To my fellow young professionals, it’s time that we get involved in this issue. We can no longer expect others to speak for us when we are highly capable of speaking for ourselves. I plan on staying involved in this issue and invite you to join me on the front lines.
4500 Leeds Ave
North Charleston, SC 29405