Greenville County has new tool to address affordable housing shortage

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Photo by Will Crooks/Greenville Journal.

Greenville County has a new tool to address its affordable housing shortage.

The newly created Greenville County Affordable Housing Fund will provide gap financing for projects that will increase the production and availability of safe, affordable housing for low-, moderate-, and middle-income households in Greenville County but outside the city limits of Greenville.

The Greenville County Redevelopment Authority, the agency that administers money the county and five municipalities receive for affordable housing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other sources, will oversee the fund.

Greenville County Administrator Joe Kernell said the county is providing $1 million per year for five years out of the money it will receive from Prisma Health as part of a deal brokered over governance of what was then known as the Greenville Health System.

The county will get $1 million per year for 20 years as part of a compromise bill passed by the state Legislature. The components of the bill were included in the settlement of a lawsuit filed by some local legislators alleging the GHS board improperly turned over governance of the public nonprofit health system to a private nonprofit entity.

A study completed last year found that the county has a shortage of nearly 9,500 housing units that are affordable to households earning less than $25,000 per year, a group that makes up more than 23 percent of those who reside in Greenville County but outside the boundaries of Greenville.

The county has 60,000 households whose maximum affordable rent is less than what for-profit developers need to break even, consultant Charles Buki reported. He said that if Greenville County’s trajectory of economic growth continues, teachers and first responders could find themselves priced out of good housing options.

“We believe there are a number of projects in the community that just need a little assistance to come to fruition,” said John Castile, executive director of GCRA. “Those are the kind of applications we seek.”

Grants and low-interest loans are available, he said. Applications are due March 22.

“We believe this is the beginning of the community mobilizing to provide diverse housing options for all residents in Greenville County,” Castile said.

The Greenville City Council established a similar fund to address the city’s shortage of more than 2,500 affordable housing units. The Greenville Housing Fund made its first loans last year, providing $863,000 for three projects that will build or preserve more than 100 affordable housing units.

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