Chamber's Scott weighs in on Charleston's affordable housing crisis

The Charleston Metropolitan Chamber is teaming with the Charleston Regional Development Alliance in an effort to economically stabilize the tri-county area of Dorchester, Berkeley and Charleston through a program called "One Region," but one expert says it may not be enough to address the workforce housing crisis.

"The affordable housing crisis in Charleston at its core is a supply and demand problem," Ian Scott, the vice president of government relations for the Charleston Metropolitan Chamber, told the Palmetto Business Daily in regards to why affordable housing is so difficult to find in the Charleston area.

The One Region program plans to use strategic initiatives to help create more infrastructure and bring economic stability to the three counties. The collaborative effort has begun, with planning efforts that will take six months and will reveal three detailed reports that will be relied upon to increase global competition and stabilize the infrastructure crisis, according to the Charleston Chamber's website.

The tri-county area will be analyzed and the three detailed reports will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the region; targets for economic and community development; and a tactical strategic action plan for executing new development. These reports will be heavily relied upon to address infrastructure and the housing crisis in Charleston because of their booming growth.

"We are simply not building enough units of any type over the tri-county Charleston region," Scott said, noting that most affordable housing that is available comes with an overwhelming amount of competition to potential homebuyers. "There are roughly 7,500 new residents including families in Charleston each year; ideally we need 3,600 more housing units each year on top of what is being produced now to make housing attainable."

Scott believes the housing shortage is putting a pinch not only on residents but employers.

"Wages are increasing stronger than the state and national average in Charleston but housing costs are growing twice as fast and rent costs are growing three times as fast in comparison to the wage growth," he said.

The gap between wage growth and housing shortage is not the only barrier that the Charleston community faces in terms of housing. Physical barriers such as water and forestry also limit where homes can be built. 

Government regulations also require time before infrastructure can be built. Surveying and permitting often are quite costly as well. For example, gaining access to sewer and water lines comes with extra costs and time because they are regulated through the county and/or city. 

According to the Charleston Chamber's website, there is no quick fix to address the housing shortage. Instead, a push for public, private and nonprofit organization resources to team with the community and develop policy to strategically address the housing issue is the best option.

For more information on the Charleston Chamber's housing advocacy, visit their website.

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