Navigating Charleston’s housing market
Last month, we talked about the issue of housing affordability in the Charleston area. ICYMI, here were some of the biggest takeaways:
- Our population is growing 3x faster than the rest of the country
- The median home price in Charleston exceeds the national average, while our median household income ($54,931) falls short of the national average ($55,322)
- Issues like infrastructure, historical regulations, + rapid growth make the problem tricky to solve
But it isn’t all bad news.
With multiple new apartment buildings under construction, rent prices are actually expected to drop over the next year. And while the rising costs have been attributed to gentrification + the displacement of black residents, Charleston actually claims one of the lowest gaps between black and white home ownership in the U.S.
For those who aren’t bringing home six figures, it’s easy to feel like homeownership (+ even renting a home or apartment) is reserved for members of an elite club. But there are options out there.
Addressing this issue has become a priority
In his State of the City address, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg vowed to make affordable housing one of his top priorities in 2018. This will be addressed, in part, by a $20 million dollar bond referendum passed in Nov. 2017– which will be used to build roughly 800 new units. Only households earning between 30-120% of the city’s mid-point income ($68,000/family of four) will be eligible for to live there. That money will also go toward renovating existing affordable housing developments + some historic properties.
Cracking down on short-term rentals
Last week, Charleston City Council voted in favor of tighter regulations on short-term rentals (a.k.a. AirBnBs). Beginning in ~3 months, STR operators will be required to obtain a special permit from the city’s Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability + must list the registration number on all online advertisements.
Advocates hope the new rules will help cut down on the individuals + developers who buy property with the sole purpose of turning it into a short-term rental. A team of three “compliance officers” have been hired by the city to regulate the AirBnBs in city limits.
Housing projects now in local hands
Public housing projects once run by the federal government are now in the hands of local leaders, via a program called Rental Assistance Demonstration. Through the Rental Assistance Demonstration or RAD, local authorities agree to take on the responsibility of necessary renovations– usually as part of a partnership with private or non-profit developers.
Tenants living in units slotted for repairs will be given Section 8 vouchers so they can temporarily relocate– but there are some complications. One, it may be difficult to find a landlord who accepts those vouchers, and two, they only subsidize up to $775– which is well below the rate of most rentals in Charleston.
Additionally, some residents are concerned that they’ll be displaced at some point during the redevelopment process– though city leaders have vowed to make sure the same number of units + bedrooms are maintained.
Resources you can check out right away
- The First Time Homebuyer Program: This program offers newly constructed + rehabilitated homes in downtown Charleston available to low- and moderate-income families. It also provides assistance with down payment + closing costs.
- More than a dozen local organizations currently offer housing assistance, including the Charleston Area Justice Ministry– which voted to focus all of its research, rally + fundraising efforts in 2018 on housing.
- Workforce Housing: Renters + buyers can search here for housing units leased or sold at below-market prices to families + individuals with qualifying incomes. Right now the available options are scarce, but the city is working on creating new rules + incentives that would push more developers to participate.
- Qualifying veterans can apply for the Veterans Build program, which builds homes all over the region.
Navigating any housing market can be tricky– but Charleston’s can be especially challenging. We want to hear your personal experiences.
What are the best websites to find rentals? What do you wish you’d known more about before buying a home? Ever had a nightmare experience with a landlord?
Spill the details in an email to [email protected].
–Jen, Multimedia Producer