20 Jun Work Force Housing
Work Force Housing
Since I was first elected to public office in 1992, I have heard the words “affordable workforce housing” at every level of government . The Beaufort Housing Authority and Habitat have done an admirable job stretching very limited resources to create and maintain subsidized rental units and homes for families who could otherwise not afford homeownership or rent. Unfortunately that only addresses a small part of the concern.
Police officers, fire fighters, school teachers, health care workers and others who work hard every day have slipped through the cracks. Lack of affordable housing creates higher than normal turnover in these professions because many cannot afford to live here. Some move to Bluffton, Ridgeland or Hardeeville then commute. Others move further away and we lose the benefits they bring to our community.
Work force housing is not an easy challenge. Land costs are likely higher in Beaufort County; the cost of infrastructure for water and sewer, roads and sidewalks, storm water systems and impact fees can cost as much as four times the cost of the raw land. (When I test the cost of a development on unusually inexpensive land in northern Beaufort County, I determined the $10,000 price tag for an improved lot jumped to just under $5o,000 for an improved lot.) This does not make for “affordable” given the demographics of our small city and the surrounding area.
There are however a few signs of light. Two developers are planning apartments whose rent could work for these professionals. And the city, in partnership with the Beaufort Housing Authority and Habitat, will be supporting workforce rentals and one house on surplus city land. These are positive steps which is the reason the city donated land after the private sector was not willing to purchase two parcels of land suitable for the needs.
Another answer to affordable housing better paying jobs. Better jobs with higher salaries make homes more in reach for many who work long and hard to improve the quality of life for their families.