Shortage of higher-end rental properties amplifies city’s affordable housing problem

Feeling the Squeeze

Aerial shot of downtown Greenville // Chris Brank Films

Keith Anderson can afford to pay more to live in the thick of things in downtown Greenville, but he chooses instead to rent something less costly on the city’s eastside.

“Just because you can afford to pay for something doesn’t mean you should,” said Anderson, who works in sales. “I still have a nice place to live, and this way I have more money in the bank to take a nicer vacation or to put away for retirement.”

The city has a shortage of more than 2,500 affordable rentals for households with annual incomes of less than $20,000, according to preliminary numbers from CZB LLC, an Alexandria, Va.-based consulting firm working with Greenville city officials, housing-related nonprofits and community leaders on a city-wide affordable housing plan. But the city also has a deficit of nearly 2,900 rental units, which are considered affordable to households with annual incomes of $50,000 or more, according to the firm.

As it turns out, Greenville has a surplus of affordable rental units for households with incomes ranging from $20,000 to $49,999 but those rentals are being gobbled up by higher earners.

The shortage on the upper end pushes the problem down, said Ginny Stroud, Greenville’s community administrator, noting that the numbers don’t account for household size that can affect affordability. “It has a domino effect,” she said.

That makes it difficult for households making less than $25,000 to find decent housing in the city, CZB’s founder Charles Buki told the city’s affordable housing steering committee.

Housing is considered affordable if a family spends no more than 30 percent of their income to live there. Households earning up to 120 percent of the area mean income are eligible for some type of affordable housing assistance.  That equals $69,600 for a family of four in Greenville. Help ranges from Section 8 rent vouchers for households at the lower end of incomes to down payment help and financial literacy classes for those at the upper end of those limits.

Stroud said it is important that the inventory of subsidized housing increases within the city limits but that inventory at other price points needs to increase to relieve pressures at other incomes.

“Affordable stocks for different price points is a problem that can be solved,” Buki said. “But it’s expensive.”

In Greenville, meeting the demand for affordable housing for households with less than $20,000 in yearly income has a huge price tag — $10 million a year for the next 25 years, Buki said.

“That’s just a catch-up number, not a keep-up number,” he said.

While the income of some Greenville residents will keep rising, allowing them to keep up with the price of housing, the wages of other groups will remain flat and jeopardize their ability to afford decent housing.



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