MOUNT PLEASANT — Studies have concluded that most people who work in this town can't afford to live here, but affordable housing efforts have been scarce and limited, partly due to concerns about over-development.
The town's last significant incentive to encourage affordable housing, which permitted developers to build more homes or apartments than they would otherwise be allowed if some units were sold or rented below market prices, had little impact and the incentive was scrapped.
Now, a nonprofit group that emerged from the work of a town housing task force, which was created when the last incentive program was ended, is starting to get up and running.
The organization, Housing For All — Mount Pleasant, has received federal approval as a nonprofit and is starting to raise funds.
The short-term goal is to raise enough money to hire a director to run the organization, most likely working from home part-time. The group is accepting donations through its website, housingforallmtp.com.
The longer-term goal is to create "attainable" housing, possibly in partnership with developers.
“We’d ideally like to see a project under way by 2020," said board member Daniel Brock, who also served on the task force. “We’re still working out many, many details.”
The town is really South Carolina's fourth-largest city, but unlike smaller cities including Greenville and Rock Hill, it has no public housing authority and owns no subsidized housing. The only public housing in Mount Pleasant is a small apartment complex in the Old Village owned by the Charleston Housing Authority.
Like the town, the Housing For All group does not plan to create housing for those with low incomes. Or even moderate incomes.
Instead, its focus is on creating "attainable" housing — homes affordable to families with incomes that are higher than most in the Charleston area but not high enough for a home in Mount Pleasant. The average price of a single-family home in the less-expensive northern end of Mount Pleasant was $573,192 in 2018, according to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.
Here's how the organization describes attainable housing:
"Attainable housing opportunities are for those making less than 120 percent of the area median income. For an individual, that means less than about $57,000 annually. For a family of four, it’s less than $82,000."
That housing, the organization states, "should include a mix of well-built single-family homes, townhome-style dwellings and apartments."
Unlike neighboring Charleston, which has ongoing incentives and programs to create middle-income housing for renters and owners — Charleston plans to borrow $20 million in 2019 to further those efforts — Mount Pleasant supported the town's task force but has left it to the new, unfunded nonprofit group to carry on the work.
Part of Housing For All's challenge will be changing perceptions in the town where some earlier efforts to create even middle-income housing were seen as a threat to property values and quality of life.
Advocates have emphasized, for example, the housing affordability challenges faced by local teachers, police officers, firefighters and workers in retail and restaurant businesses.