Affordable Housing (copy)

This building at 93 Columbus St. houses four affordable apartments owned by the Charleston Housing Authority. Three of them are vacant. Brad Nettles/Staff

Despite a dire shortage of affordable housing in Charleston, several three-bedroom apartments owned by the city Housing Authority are sitting vacant, and some of them have been that way for months.

“We’re looking for somebody who doesn’t make a whole lot of money who needs a three-bedroom apartment," said Charley Dillard, a vice president at AMCS in West Ashley, which manages the apartments for the Charleston Housing Authority.

In just one small apartment building, on the corner of Columbus and Nassau streets, there are three empty three-bedroom apartments that rent for $927 monthly. On the Charleston peninsula, that's a bargain, considering that new luxury apartments for college students, just four blocks away, rent for $999 per bedroom.

“One thing we don’t allow is an apartment full of college students," Dillard said. “Typically, for us, it’s an adult with children.”

One challenge is finding families who make enough money to afford the rent but not so much money that they would be disqualified from renting. The apartments are not subsidized, but they are only rented to tenants who meet income guidelines.

Under the authority's income limits, a family of four could have a gross income of up to $44,700 and rent one of those apartments. The monthly rent would add up to $11,124 yearly. The income limits for potential tenants are:

  • 1 person, $31,320
  • 2 people, $35,760
  • 3 people $40,260
  • 4 people, $44,700
  • 5 people, $48,300
  • 6 people, $51,900

“Sometimes it takes a while to fill them," Dillard said. "Once we fill them, people tend to stay a while."

The Housing Authority's two-bedroom apartments on the peninsula rent quickly. The three-bedroom units are more of a challenge, he said.

Affordable Housing

Notices on the mailboxes at 93 Columbus St. alert the U.S. Postal Service that three of four units there are empty. Brad Nettles/Staff

Two of the vacant apartments at 93 Columbus St. have been unoccupied for more than six months.

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The building at 93 Columbus St. was among two dozen small apartment houses the authority agreed to buy at the end of 2009, taking advantage of Great Recession distressed-sale prices. The authority bought 24 buildings containing 35 apartments at a cost of $1,213,560.

Charleston City Councilman Robert Mitchell represents the area that includes 93 Columbus. He said it's a challenging building for families to live in because there's no yard and limited off-street parking.

“People know (about the apartments), but some of them just don’t want to move there," he said. “It’s a small, little complex. It used to be nasty, at one time."

Mitchell said, under the Housing Authority's ownership, the building is no longer nasty, but for many potential tenants, the $927 monthly rent is too expensive.

“A lot of times, people can’t afford it," he said. “If you’re working in hotels and places like that, you can’t afford that."

AMCS can be reached at 843-579-3023.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com