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Study: A quarter of SC renters spend 50% of their income on housing

SC Housing has finished its study on affordable housing and found things did not improve much...
SC Housing has finished its study on affordable housing and found things did not improve much in two years.(Live 5)
Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 3:44 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new housing study shows South Carolinians continue to struggle to find affordable places to live.

SC Housing released the results of its 2021 SC Housing Needs Assessment. It is an update to the original 2019 report and shares much of the same findings which boils down to there’s not enough affordable housing in the state.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to budgeting for housing is to not exceed a third of your annual income. SC Housing found nearly a quarter of the state’s renters spend at least half of their income on housing and utilities.

“Severely cost burdened means somebody is spending at least 50 percent of their income on housing and utilities,” Bryan Grady, chief research officer at SC Housing, said. “If somebody is spending that much money on housing there is just not an opportunity for people to have a sustainable path forward.”

A lack of affordable housing does not just impact people looking for homes. It can be a costly expense for the state’s economy. The SC Housing study found “a lack of affordable housing put a drag on the state’s economy of $9.4 billion in 2019.”

“That is money that people would have spent on basic household expenditures – food, clothing, transportation, healthcare – but they weren’t able to cover those expenses because of their housing costs relative to their expenses,” Grady said. “That’s 9.4 billion dollars in economic activity that would have happened in South Carolina if people were able to spend the money.”

These findings have reinforced what affordable housing advocates have been saying for years. In 2016, Princeton University Eviction Lab listed North Charleston in the large city category as the top city in the nation for evictions with an eviction rate of 16.5 percent.

“Basically, what we found is that over the past few years there hasn’t been a substantial change. There’s been a modest increase in fact in eviction filings,” Grady said. “There’s been approximately one eviction filing for every four renters statewide, which again is way out of whack from national trends, even in very economically distressed communities.”

There are projects in the works to address the need for more affordable units. Recently, Charleston-area mayors participated in a summit to discuss the future of development and affordable housing was a top concern. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey calls it a challenge that they are trying to meet.

“We have recently approved. . . a subdivision that is going to allow 220 affordable condos to be built for sale in the $170,000 bracket,” Summey said. “They’re three bedroom units off of the Remount Road corridor and will help provide housing for the working class folks including school teachers.”

The study also looked at students and found nearly 13,000 kids in grades K-12 do not have a permanent home.

“That’s one for every 60 students so in an average two or three classrooms you’re going to get one student that doesn’t have a permanent place to live,” Grady said. “That is obviously extremely disorienting and extremely harmful for childhood development”

One of the most shocking things about this study is the fact that all of this data was compiled from 2019 when the state enjoyed a strong economy. Grady says when they look back at the numbers from 2020 and the pandemic, he expects the problem areas to only get worse.

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