Cities all over the country have faced the challenge of balancing growth with the need for affordable homes for all of the people who contribute to that growth.
The city of Greenville has taken steps to face the issue head on, first by creating a volunteer steering committee and commissioning a year-long study of the topic.
The committee worked with urban planning consultant firm CZB to create an ongoing solution to address the need for affordable housing at all income levels, defined as costing 30 percent or less of gross income. Of particular concern is the city’s shortage of more than 2,500 units with monthly rents lower than $500–$625, affordable for people earning $20,000–$25,000 annually (working full-time at $10–12.50 per hour).
The work group recommended the creation of a housing trust fund to support the construction and preservation of affordable housing units, focused on projects serving households with incomes between $15,000 and $55,000. The city earmarked $2 million to establish the Greenville Housing Fund along with a proposed $1 million in private money.
With contributions from local grant makers such as Hollingsworth Funds, the Graham Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greenville, and Westminster Presbyterian Church, the private portion of the initial capitalization is nearly complete, said Bob Morris, president of the Community Foundation.
“The Community Foundation has supported nonprofits that build affordable housing in the past, so investing $100,000 in this public-private partnership was a natural fit for us,” Morris said. “The city’s commitment is the beginning of a very exciting period for our community. We’re trying to show leadership and partnership to help meet this goal and move the issue forward.”
The Graham Foundation’s $200,000 contribution was given to leverage its previous housing grants, said Eleanor Dunlap, chief impact officer.
“The housing fund will support projects that address housing needs for individuals and families who increasingly find it difficult to find affordable homes, from hourly workers, restaurant and hotel employees, to teachers and firefighters,” Dunlap said.
Tammie Hoy Hawkins, project manager for GHF, said the agency will evaluate diverse programs to fill the need, including repairing existing homes or building new homes and rentals, proposed by nonprofits and for-profit developers.
“We can offer technical assistance, help identify projects that are ready to go, and provide the last funding to make the project happen,” Hawkins said. “We hope to revolve these funds as much as possible.”
On Sept. 18, 2018, GHF announced awards of $863,000 to Habitat for Humanity, Homes of Hope and Bywater Development, intended to build and restore more than 100 homes within the city of Greenville.
With this financing, Homes of Hope plans to develop nine rental homes, and Habitat for Humanity will build six homes. Bywater Development will rehabilitate Stratham Place, located off Poinsett Highway, preserving 88 affordable rental homes.
“The vision of the Greenville Housing Fund is to enable thriving diverse neighborhoods throughout Greenville,” said Bogue Wallin, chair of GHF. “This would not be possible without the support we have received from the city.”
While providing loans and grants is an important function of the housing fund, another goal is to serve as an advocate and champion for affordable housing in Greenville.
“We want to be a leading voice for balancing growth with affordable housing and looking at innovative strategies and making policy recommendations to do that,” Hawkins said. “As federal funds continue to decline, we have to look to local to address the challenges within Greenville. We hope these donations will catalyze other entities to also invest in this issue.”