Bryan Brown is hoping to close the geographical gap between affordable housing and jobs in Greenville County — but it won’t be easy.
The city and county currently have a shortfall of about 12,000 affordable homes, and it’s growing by more than 500 each year, according to a study.
Brown, 55, was named CEO of the newly created Greenville Housing Fund earlier this month. He comes from the Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Housing Authority, an agency that deals with about 15,000 vouchers and units combined. Brown was chief development officer before he was chief operating officer at the housing agency.
“Affordable housing is one of the biggest topics all over the country — there’s a growing crisis nationally, and I appreciate and am thankful that it’s top of mind locally at the community leader level,” Brown said. “Because Greenville has a robust economy, it is a high-demand area in terms of people looking to move here, and the affordable-housing continuum is part of that economic development and workforce development.”
Brown said the Greenville Housing Fund has already issued a request for proposal for a consultant that can take what the city and county already know from past studies and drill down to target specific income earners — Brown wants to know exactly how many units are needed for those who earn 30% of the median income, 80% of the median income, and so on.
“Affordability means different things to different people,” Brown said. “The Greenville Housing Fund specifically targets people making $55,000 and below, and $50 to $55 might sound like an OK income to a lot of people, but if you’ve got a family and one or two kids, go try to find housing and pay for everything [on that]. It’s hard to do.”
Brown said one of the biggest affordable-housing problems comes from developers building housing units and assigning cost based on how much money can be recouped from purchasing the land and construction, rather than the actual demand.
“Sometimes, what’s being built is not really driven by the demand side, in terms of people,” Brown said. “It becomes a math problem of, ‘If I build X type of units at X number, and here’s the cost, this is what I’m going to have to charge to get my money back and a small return.’ That’s how this works, and so we have to figure out ways to better match supply with the demand.”
Brown said making sure housing units are being built where jobs are located is a priority, along with preserving the affordability of existing neighborhoods.
“I’m very excited about the work ahead and the opportunity to have an impact,” Brown said.