The Charleston City Council approved requirements for developers in July to potentially allow for more workforce housing for those individuals earning up to 80 percent of the area median salary. The plan sets requirements to allow new developments to either reserve a percentage of their residences for middle income tenants or have the option to pay a fee to the city instead to help provide its own the affordable housing.
The council voted to establish new rules that mandate that 25 percent of the floor plans qualify for affordable housing for 25 years in exchange for allowing unlimited density on those locations zoned for workforce housing. The developers have the option to also pay $5.10 fee per square foot of what they would have been required to offer for affordable housing in the development. The developer would be able to rent their buildings at market rates rather than at the cheaper rate for workforce housing for designated units. The fees would go to the Department of Housing and Community Development to build its own affordable housing projects.
The City Council’s goal is to provide affordable housing for middle income individuals like teachers, police officers and firefighters, so they can live closer to where they work. According to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the rent would have to be less than 30 percent of the individual’s income to be considered affordable housing. The new requirements would benefit a very small segment of the city’s population. A one bedroom apartment for example may rent for about $1,020 a month for a person making a salary of $37,000 before taxes. However, once you add income tax and utilities to the rent amount, the individual is actually paying about 50 percent of their income for the unit.
Those developers who opt to pay a fee to the city will enable the city to build its own affordable housing to reach a wider segment of the population. Developers who spoke up at the city council meeting said they would be more willing to pay a fee if it was reduced in half. Councilmen Mike Seekings said that a more reasonable solution would be to reduce the fee by $1.00 per square foot to induce developers to choose the fee option. The City Council agreed to revisit the issue in six months to make sure the fee is set at a reasonable level.
Source: “Workforce housing for a living city,” Post & Courier op-ed, July 16, 2017
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