Decades ago, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, were in the same position Greenville is now — experiencing explosive growth.
New Greenville County Redevelopment Authority Executive Director John Castile said Greenville County can learn from those cities when it comes to addressing a problem that often accompanies rapid growth — affordable housing.
“We can learn a lot from other communities that have gone through this, the do’s and the don’ts,” he said. “Places like Spartanburg are doing innovative things. We can take those ideas and see how they might be adapted here. Each community has a palate for certain types of projects.”
The GCRA administers the money the county receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other sources for affordable housing.
“As Greenville County continues to experience unprecedented growth, increasing housing opportunities for all income levels is essential to building an inclusive diverse community,” said Castile, who is the seventh executive director in GCRA’s 45-year history. Castile was Greenville city manager up until Aug. 31, a position he held for eight years. He had worked for the city in some capacity for 23 years.
A study completed earlier this year found the county has a shortage of 9,432 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 the city of Greenville.
The study by Alexandria, Virginia-based urban planning and neighborhood development consulting firm CZB LLC found there are 60,000 households in Greenville County whose maximum affordable rent is less than what for-profit developers need to break even.
The study found that if the county’s trajectory of economic growth continues, it would be only a matter of time before teachers and first responders found themselves priced out of good housing options.
“When a community has been discovered, it’s a natural thing to ask what kind of community do you want to be and for whom,” he said. “We all agree having a diverse community is a strength.”
County Council Chairman Butch Kirven, who touted Castile’s proven leadership, called the hiring a “game-changer.”
“Affordable housing is not just beneficial to certain people in the community,” he said. “It benefits everyone and our community.”
Castile said GCRA will continue to concentrate on constructing, rehabilitating, and partnering with nonprofit and for-profit organizations to provide affordable housing units. Over the past 45 years, it has worked to stabilize and revitalize about 30 communities in the county, including former textile mill neighborhoods. It has provided about 5,000 affordable housing units.
Castile said he sees opportunities where the GCRA can work with the Greenville Housing Fund, an independent nonprofit fund established by the Greenville City Council to address the affordable housing shortage. He said there are several neighborhoods that are partially in the city and the county, and that the GCRA and Greenville Housing Fund could work on projects in which there’s mutual interest in those areas.
“Are there other things we can do to further increase opportunities for affordable housing?” he said. “I think there are.”