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Comment Archives: Stories: News+Opinion: Election Guide: Last 30 Days

Re: “On election day, vote 'Yes' on affordable housing

You watch, the city will keep coming back for more money.

1 of 1 people like this.
Posted by Randall Floyd on November 7, 2017 at 3:11 PM

Re: “On election day, vote 'Yes' on affordable housing

@factoryconnection, thank you for your constructive comments. I understand (for clarity, I'm not the person you referenced) that this plan is intended to help working individuals and families. Unfortunately, I think the ends are still very poorly met by this design.

Developers want to build affordable units and high end units and medium units. The problem here is a math and a zoning one. Vacant land in West Ashley inside 526 is worth $300,000 to $1+ million an acre, generally cheaper further out and more expensive towards downtown. The most common zoning has a maximum of 7 units per acre, but then all kinds of setback and frontage requirements that really restrict lots to 1/4 to 1/3 acre. So the "floor" for a single family residence in about every West Ashley neighborhood is $100k, just for the land, before you even count the value of the house.

This isn't something that can be legislated away or ignored, it's the common price people are willing to pay to live here.

A household with takehome pay of $50,000 would be paying 1/3 of their income on housing (including tax & insurance) on a 30-year mortgage of a $250k home. The only way for a builder or developer to get the price of units down to around $250,000 is to be able to put more units on that same 1/3 acre lot.

**City and county zoning regulations are the only thing standing in the way**

I have personally inquired about building new or creating a duplex on three separate properties with city planners **where there were already duplexes on the same street**. Every time, the answer is "no, that would not be allowed". The current duplexes were built before the zoning was in place and are grandfathered in but new development would not be permitted.

On another lot, the original house was built up right next to the street because the lot was very shallow. Going forward the city refused to relax the setbacks (even though the other properties on the same street didn't follow the setbacks) requiring something like a house that could only be 15' deep. Ridiculous.

To be fair, I live in a property that had two houses on it (legal non-conforming, grandfathered in) and the Board of Zoning Appeals let us subdivide and create two lots even though one didn't meet minimum requirements. The City supported this because it was already non-conforming to zoning and they viewed the new non-conforming part (narrower lot frontage than neighboring properties) to be less-worse than existing non-conforming (multiple houses on one lot).

Maybe the Board of Zoning Appeals would approve the placement of duplexes or a relaxation of setback requirements where it fits the neighborhood on those other properties, but that is a lengthy and expensive process. That adds cost, time, and uncertainty to the process, which ultimately results in higher, less affordable housing prices.

Citizens are concerns about dense developments going where there's already undersized infrastructure. The answer is to allow development close to major roads and closer to downtown. Guess what: those are the places where the city zoning is the most restrictive. You could put 10 units on Magnolia Rd. in West Ashley with no impact on traffic whatsoever. Amenities are already there to support the new families.

We don't need to spend $20 million patching self-inflicted wounds, we need to stop shooting ourself in the foot.

Side note: i'm not sure we really need to do anything for working one-person households. You can share apartments and rent rooms in group houses. This is the norm in every moderately expensive city, and there's absolutely no reason taxpayers, with thousands of other pressing priorities, should be allocating scarce resources to helping a few individuals upgrade from their mom's basement or shared house to a studio or one-bedroom apartment. Families with children do need consideration, although, again, city developers are probably the least effective at meeting their needs.

3 of 3 people like this.
Posted by natehertel on November 2, 2017 at 10:31 AM

Re: “On election day, vote 'Yes' on affordable housing

Jeff Barnes I think you're confusing "affordable" housing to accommodate more levels of the workforce and a housing project. The problem being addressed is that workers in the city, ones with jobs and incomes and everything, are unable to afford to live here. Pushing the working-class person farther and farther out into the hinterlands, extending their commute 15-20 minutes per year places an outsized burden on low-income earners. This city thrives on tourism, an industry designed to use lots of low-wage workers in kitchens, cleaning staffs, you name it. Expecting people to spend half of their income on housing makes it all a house of cards.

There are legitimate arguments to be made about the best way to address the problem of workforce housing scarcity, but be clear: this is a program for WORKERS.

5 of 7 people like this.
Posted by factoryconnection on November 2, 2017 at 9:28 AM

Re: “Getting behind affordable housing and deciding the future of James Island and West Ashley

There is already plenty of affordable housing in Charleston, all one has to do is work a full 40 hour week at minimum wage to afford one night in any of the ever growing number of fine hotels downtown...VOTE NO unless you are an idiot riding a unicorn!

7 of 14 people like this.
Posted by EmpireInvisible on November 2, 2017 at 8:04 AM

Re: “On election day, vote 'Yes' on affordable housing

There is already plenty of affordable housing in Charleston, all one has to do is work a full 40 hour week at minimum wage to afford one night in any of the ever growing number of fine hotels downtown...VOTE NO unless you are an idiot riding a unicorn!

2 of 7 people like this.
Posted by EmpireInvisible on November 2, 2017 at 7:58 AM

Re: “On election day, vote 'Yes' on affordable housing

Why would we ever trust the local government to effectively manage this program? The County Council just had to buy a property for $33 million after signing bad leases...that the City of North Charleston had bought for $2 million 5 years ago. As far as has been reported, there weren't any extensive renovations or infrastructure work that justified the $31 million markup, just idiocy.

Meanwhile, developers want to build housing, and want to even build affordable housing. But affordable housing is dense housing in areas where the land underneath is so valuable. The problem is that local zoning won't allow builders to erect affordable housing.

What would ever allow the city to spend $20 million and meaningfully address the issue?-- an exemption from the rules for their projects!

Why not just change the rules that exist for current developers and let them build affordable units without putting taxpayers on the hook for the poor management of inept officials.

4 of 6 people like this.
Posted by natehertel on November 1, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Re: “On election day, vote 'Yes' on affordable housing

This is a huge tax increase on the backs of lower and middle class working people, which will be pocketed by our political hacks cherry picked developers who in turn contribute to the politcal hacks. A few cheap apartments get built, they move people in who don't work dont even live in Charleston now, nor do anything. In 10 years the apartments are trashed and they come back to steal more money from you. Don't fall for it. This is a tax increase on working families to pay for non working people's apartments

11 of 19 people like this.
Posted by Jeff Barnes on November 1, 2017 at 3:19 PM

Re: “On election day, vote 'Yes' on affordable housing

Does anyone else think it's a bad idea to let government raise bond money to build housing? And if they do, would you want the City of Charleston as a landlord?

9 of 12 people like this.
Posted by Ima Oldman on November 1, 2017 at 1:10 PM
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