The Charleston Regional Development Alliance recently released the 2013 Regional Economic Scorecard which compares the Charleston metro area to six similar metro areas (Greenville, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Knoxville, TN; Lexington, KY; Richmond, VA; and Savannah, GA) and two leading economies (Austin, TX and Raleigh, NC). For the second year in a row, the report highlights Charleston as one of the least affordable housing markets in the Southeast.

The report lists four critical issues for economic success: transportation, education, innovation, and talent/employment. CLF has one more to add: housing. Without ample affordable housing options, all the accolades bestowed upon the Charleston metro area, as highlighted in the Scorecard, will be short-lived.

Take for example employment. The region has experienced job growth two times faster than the U.S. since 2010, and all of the region’s jobs lost in 2009 have been recovered. Unemployment is lower than the national average and dropping at a faster pace.

In 2011, Charleston’s average annual wage was $40,685; well above the state average of $38,427 but 15% below the national average of $46,788.

While employment is strong and wages are above state average, housing affordability remains a challenge. A worker must earn $45.11 an hour to afford the average priced home in the Charleston region ($281,459 as of June 30, 2013) and $32.37 an hour to afford the median priced home of $202,000. The average hourly wage for the region is $19.80.

This is where the “drive till you can afford” reality comes in. If local workers can’t afford to live near their jobs, they must move out to areas that their incomes can support. Thus, commute times become longer, costs of commuting become higher, traffic congestion becomes even worse, and concerns of urban sprawl are multiplied.

If housing affordability does not improve, the Charleston metro area may lose its ability to attract new talent to the region and perhaps, might even force people to move away to a more affordable place to live.

CLF believes strongly that affordable housing is the key to economic prosperity and will continue to work diligently to increase the stock of affordable housing locally and statewide through financing and advocacy. By partnering on efforts such as the Regional Scorecard, CLF keeps affordable housing at the forefront of regional planning discussions.