Affordable Housing

On last Tuesday night, Council heard a presentation by John Castile of the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority on the issue of affordable housing.  Many people associate “affordable housing” or “income-based” housing with “Section 8” or “Public Housing.”  But that’s a misconception.  Creating affordable housing opportunities can be done in a variety of ways. As I’ve said before, I received my first mortgage via the South Carolina State Housing Authority. It was a special program for public service employees making under a certain yearly income that allowed me a reduced interest rate and a reduced down payment. It made homeownership something I could afford—more affordable, in fact, than renting.  And that homeownership was a launching pad that helped me continue to build economic mobility.  It also gave me the opportunity to pay that forward.  It’s not just about me or any other individual(s), though. That kind of personal economic mobility has a direct impact on our community, including increases in local purchasing power, job creation, new tax revenues, and decreased numbers of people using public assistance, amongst others.  Make no mistake: we have an affordable housing problem in Greenville County. The recent Housing Study about which we were informed shows that clearly. And every day, the problem is growing, in part because of changing demographics, the high cost of labor, and a focus on luxury homes (and higher profit margins). Simply building more affordable housing isn’t the answer—it’s a part—but not the whole.  We learned about a number of tools to create opportunities like the one I had or like the one we’ve created for 13 families via our partnership with Habitat for Humanity. That’s why the County has established a $1 million annual fund to support affordable housing.  And it’s why GCRA is facilitating a new 5-year consolidated plan for Greenville County.  And it’s also why I look forward to working with the County, GCRA, our City Administrator, and my fellow councilmembers to build our “Affordable Housing Toolbox” with a variety of options and to ensure our 2020 Action Plan and our new Comprehensive Plan support efforts to create affordable housing opportunities that are the right fit for Simpsonville.  If I’ve said it before, I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll say it again: long-term, strategic planning will be the only way can solve problems like this in sustainable ways.