Affordable housing a challenge for Charleston millennials

For many millennials, there is simply not enough income to afford basic living expenses in a city like Charleston.   File photo

There is a multitude of challenges facing young professionals in the workforce, beginning with simply finding a place to live.

It's no secret that housing is expensive, especially in popular cities such as Charleston. No one knows this better than Michael Samuel, a millennial who was relocated to Charleston for work.

Samuel, a 23-year-old commercial portfolio manager with BB&T, was eager to move to Charleston until he learned of the exorbitant housing prices. 

"We're not making that much to start off with," Samuel told Palmetto Business Daily.  

But Samuel feels that the fault does not only lie with the employers, but the overall trend of society. 

Like many millennials, Samuel found that the concept of living on his own was more a dream than a reality, unlike what it was for the Baby Boomer generation in which young adults moved out on their own after graduation. Samuel was forced to look elsewhere for accommodations, leading him to learn about workforce housing.

Samuel explained that even for someone who is earning a reasonable salary, there is simply not enough income to afford basic living expenses in a city like Charleston, where much of the local population is affluent. Throw in issues such as high student debt, tightening salaries, meager pay raises and high transportation costs, and the problem becomes even more complicated.

"Your disposable income just gets hit every single time," Samuels said. "It's really a national issue; it's not just a Charleston issue."

Workforce housing offers a much-needed solution to the problem by offering more affordable housing options for individuals by offering rent at a lower price than normal. These individuals can include those from the tourism industry, as well as teachers, nurses and service industry employees, to name a few. 

Unfortunately, despite this seemingly practical solution to expensive housing, workforce housing seems to have a bad connotation, making it less desirable as people may wrongfully assume that affordable housing means low income. Negative opinions of workforce housing do little-to-nothing to promote reform in the housing industry as it relates to millennials and the struggles that they are facing, forcing individuals to seek out other living arrangements. 

"I am not living in workforce housing," Samuel said. "I just found a roommate on Craigslist."  

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