South Carolina’s Tri-County Area Is Hard on Renters
South Carolina’s real estate market may be as hot as the white sand beaches of Hilton Head, which is great news for real estate agents. However, for low-income residents just trying to make rent in the Tri-County area — it’s been a harrowing year.
According to the most recent “Out of Reach Report” published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, residents of the Tri-County area, which consists of Charleston, North Charleston, and Summerville, are among the country’s most economically challenged renters.
The State of the Tri-County Area
The aforementioned report assumes a fair market rental value of $771 per month for a one-bedroom home in the state. At the state’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage, a worker would have to work approximately 82 hours per week to spend the ideal 30% of their income on housing.
Of course, most South Carolina renters — who comprise about 30% of the state — make $13.52 per hour (or about $28k per year) on average, which is significantly better than minimum wage but not nearly enough to make ends meet in the Tri-County area. For that, the report says residents will need to make $22.67 per hour to afford a modest two-bedroom place at a fair market rent of $1179 per month.
“Significant investments are needed to increase the supply of affordable rental housing, preserve the existing stock, and expand rental assistance to all who need it,” says the report.
Sounds simple enough, right? But making these changes will be a challenge. Limited inventory, low-interest rates, and increased demand for property in the Palmetto State are sending prices to record highs. While that’s great for some, developers and investors might be hesitant to build multi-family properties if a significant portion of the population can’t afford to make regular rental payments. It’s likely that this issue won’t be resolved without some nudging from local and state governments.
Why Affordable Housing Is Good for the Economy
If workers can manage to adhere to the “30% rule”, whether by experiencing lower housing costs, increased wages, or both, they’re better able to weather financial downturns, avoid evictions, spend money locally, and save for the future — likely to purchase a house — and that’s good for everyone involved as this kind of balance lends itself well to stable long-term community growth.
Furthermore, access to housing helps people live healthier lifestyles, which helps them stay in the workforce and reduces the chances of developing costly chronic medical conditions that often end in financial ruin or a need for further government assistance.
The development of affordable housing also creates local construction and building maintenance jobs while inviting infrastructure improvements to access the new properties, resulting in more economic growth.
Affordable Housing: It’s Not Just a South Carolina Issue
There’s a housing shortage across the country. Even before COVID-19 struck, housing was in high demand with a shortage of roughly 2.5 million units. Today, it’s even more competitive. Inventory is eclipsing a 40-year low, which has caused a 16% jump in the median home value nationwide.
"We are simply facing a housing shortage, a major housing shortage. We need to build more homes. Supply is critical in the current environment," Lawrence Yun, the chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS® told NPR.
However, that new realized value means a lot of people might be looking to upgrade too. The only question that remains is: Are you ready to help them? If you or someone you know is passionate about the issue of affordable housing, consider donating or becoming a member of the National Low Income Housing Initiative.
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