Affordable housing proves hard to come by in Charleston

Charleston is one of the fastest growing cities, causing problems for people trying to find affordable homes in the area.

James Williams, CEO of Charleston County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (CCHRA), said between 40 and 50 people move to the Charleston metro area every day.

"It's driving up rent," Williams said in an interview with Palmetto Business Daily. "I moved here from Chicago and I took a pay cut. My thoughts were that rent would be fairly low but that's not the case. It took me a while to find out where I was going to live."

Williams said low-income individuals have been driven out of the market.

James Williams   CCHRA website

"Developers are building houses, but it's nothing affordable," he said. "Everything is driven out mostly into the suburbs where there's not much work."

Williams said low-income individuals are even more disenfranchized after being driven out of the city.

"The only way out I see is that we need to do this program called RAD [Rental Assistance Demonstration]," Williams said. "That model doesn't always take in the current need for housing but it accommodates what you already have."

Williams said the program replaces units already in existence, but does not necessarily lead to any affordable housing.

"The positive part is you no longer have the dollars you need coming from the government because once you go RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration), then those dollars are generated through the tenants themselves," Williams said. "There's a tradeoff."

RAD is a federal housing program that subsidizes rentals. 

Williams said in Charleston there are a lot of restrictions to building new housing.

"We're essentially landlocked," Williams said. "We have a lot of swamp land and water, and you're building on that. If you then cap rent, developers aren't incentivized to build that housing."

Williams said his agency is funded until February but, come March, it won't be able to work because it doesn't have enough reserves.

"Our Section 8 program that includes 1,400 families will be disenfranchized because those checks that go out to cover their rent to their landlords, who are already not favorable with Section 8, they are going to put those individuals out," Williams said. "Then the families will have trouble finding a new home."

Williams said affordable housing is hard for the CCHRA, Charleston and the rest of the state during the current partial government shutdown.

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