If Greenville County wants to keep up with the demand for affordable housing, it will need to add 10,000 new affordable units and maintain 3,000 more over the next decade.
Otherwise, the problem of housing affordability will grow beyond local government’s ability to meet the need.
That was the conclusion of a study commissioned in collaboration by the city and county to determine just where the area stands on housing affordability.
The report, conducted by Thomas P. Miller & Associates, found Greenville to be among the top 10 metro areas in the nation for fastest growth of cost-burdened households, with 46,000 households in the city and county designated as cost-burdened.
“Having diverse affordable housing options throughout the salary spectrum is truly important for a sustainable community,” said John Castile, executive director for the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority.
Greenville’s housing affordability problem is hardly unique, according to Bryan Brown, president and CEO of the Greenville Housing Fund.
“This lack of supply is true across the country, with broad and growing demand for affordable housing,” Brown said. “Just as it’s true in other places, the fact is we have a bifurcated demand population.”
That bifurcation, as Brown pointed out, is due to the growing number of younger households pushing up demand at the same time the baby boomer generation and empty nesters are also growing dramatically – the latter of which is often dubbed “the silver tsunami.”
“That has major implications to the type of affordable housing we want to have and will need to have in the future,” he said.
The report aimed to determine not only where the city and county stood on housing affordability, but also what needs to be done to shore up supply to meet the needs of the future.
A target goal of producing 10,000 new affordable housing units would come with a price tag of $1.4 billion in construction costs, but city and county leaders aim to meet 20% of those costs through nontraditional financing and incentives. That includes state and federal grants, foundation grants, tax credits, and local grants and loans.
Also critical is the preservation of what affordable housing units currently exist, the report noted.
“Many of the affordable units are under assault right now as property prices increase. There’s an incentive for owners to move that property to a market rate property,” said Matthew Reuff, director of economic development and community resiliency with Thomas P. Miller & Associates.
The report outlined ways to preserve affordable units. These include a direct loan program that would shore up $50,000 in incentives to selected owners, as well as indirect incentives such as forgone annual fees or up to 50% of property taxes. County and city leaders also discussed jumpstarting a program that would seek out distressed properties that could be received as donations to the city or county or purchased to be transformed into affordable units.
“We think Greenville is ahead of the curve on most of these issues, but we’re still not where we want to be,” Brown said. “We want to be able to look up in 10 years and know we’ve really changed the game in Greenville.”