Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg testified before a State Senate subcommittee in support of the South Carolina Inclusionary Zoning Act (S-346), legislation which would allow counties and municipalities to mandate that developers of five or more single or multi-family housing units set aside up to 30% of the units for those who earn 80% or less of the median household income for the region at reduced prices. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston) and has no co-sponsors.
The median household income in Charleston County is $68,800 per year, meaning that households earning $55,400 or less would be eligible for the reduced cost housing units. The formula adopted by the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sets affordable housing limits at 30% of monthly household income. That means the maximum rent for a family earning $55,400 would be $1385 per month.
Sen. Kimpson told the subcommittee that his legislation would enable teachers, police officers and other public sector employees to afford to live in the community. The average pay for teachers and police officers in Charleston County is about $45,000 per year, meaning if they were the sole wage earner in their households, the rent cap would be about $1125 per month. A search of two-bedroom apartments in the area showed that there were many such units available in the Charleston area with rents below that amount.
Mayor Tecklenburg told the subcommittee that Charleston’s 40,000 hospitality industry employees have to go beyond Summerville to find a home they can afford. He labelled the housing costs in the area as a “crisis situation”. Tecklenburg noted that Charleston allows developers to engage in voluntary reduced cost rental arrangements in exchange for higher density zoning and reduced parking space requirements.
David Black with the Homebuilders Association of South Carolina spoke in opposition to the legislation. He noted that government permitting requirements and mandates raise the cost of housing units by 25%. He cited an investigation by the Reason Foundation showing that affordable housing mandates make homes unaffordable for those who earn more than 80% of the median household income. The South Carolina Association of Realtors also opposed the legislation. The group has organized a task force to find ways to help low-income families find homes they can afford. Read the Reason Foundation’s research here: http://reason.org/blog/show/no-simple-answers-on-affordable-hou
Sen. Sandy Senn (R-Charleston) proposed an amendment to the bill to lower the affordable housing mandate to 25% of the housing units constructed, which passed. The legislation was voted out of subcommittee by a 2-1 vote and will be addressed by the 23-member Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.