The Charleston area suffers from a perfect storm of stagnant wages, a booming population and skyrocketing rents.
Evictions and foreclosures continue to increase across the board, but those who suffer most are the people living paycheck to paycheck, siphoning more than 50 percent of their monthly income toward rent.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn thinks South Carolinians deserve better.
The Columbia Democrat organized a comprehensive panel discussion on Monday night in North Charleston — the epicenter of the nation's eviction crisis and part of the 6th Congressional District.
Hundreds, from Johns Island to North Charleston to Awendaw, packed North Charleston City Hall to listen to eight experts weigh in on both the reasons why the housing crisis is so bad and potential solutions for change.
Evictions occur when renters are removed from their homes by their landlords. In South Carolina, the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (1986) states that landlords can evict their tenants following nonpayment of rent.
If a tenant wishes to challenge the eviction they must schedule a hearing with their designated magistrate court within 10 days.
A group of researchers from Princeton University recently collected and analyzed more than 83 million court records nationwide and ranked North Charleston as the No. 1 city for its eviction rate.
According to the data, in 2016, one in every 16.5 renter-occupied households endured an eviction. Columbia ranked No. 8 with its eviction rate of 8.22 percent.
At a rate of 8.87 percent, South Carolina evicts families at a rate four times higher than the national average, which is 2.34 percent.
State Rep. Marvin Pendarvis, D-North Charleston, credited absentee landlords and the lack of proper jurisprudence for the instability.
After speaking with the magistrate judges responsible for deciding eviction cases, Pendarvis said he learned of a backlog of at least 3,600 cases. Of these, many involve out-of-state property management companies that refuse to maintain the properties.
As a result, the health and safety of children in North Charleston is jeopardized, Pendarvis said.
"There is no designated landlord-tenant court designated to handle these types of issues," he said. "We've got an obligation to ourselves and to our community to ensure we're putting sound policies in place."
It doesn't help that the average rent in North Charleston is $946, said Arnold Collins, executive director of the Palmetto Community Action Partnership.
Financial experts generally advise people to budget no more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, Collins said. That means a person who can comfortably afford a rent of $946 should make roughly $3,000 each month.
"If a person makes $12 an hour, that's $1,900," Collins said. "That's too tight."
Many tenants who protest their evictions in court do so without legal help, but it doesn't have to be that way. Last year the Palmetto Community Action Partnership helped 222 families prevent eviction, Collins said.
A foreclosure takes place when homeowners are forced to move because a bank or lending agency repossesses their home. South Carolina's foreclosure rate has remained persistently high compared with other states.
As of March 2018, one in every 1,120 homes in South Carolina was in foreclosure. Most types of foreclosure were up by more than 20 percent.
David Geer is the director of Origins SC, a debt reconciliation program based in North Charleston. Geer said that the nonprofit has helped about 15,000 avoid foreclosure.
"Please don't think it's the end of the road," he said. "Please call."