The Charleston County Zoning & Planning Department and the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments’ (BCDCOG) recently released Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Housing Needs Assessment paints a daunting but realistic picture of the affordable housing crisis facing the tri-county region.

Launched in 2011, this two-year initiative identifies current and emerging housing trends and needs; generates a great understanding of local housing issues; and provides direction for addressing these housing-related issues. Several agencies were engaged in the process, including CLF, representatives from local municipalities, and Charleston County staff.

The Assessment states the obvious: a thriving region is weakened by an unaffordable housing market that fails to meet the needs of its residents. But it is the data found within that serves as a reality check:

Since 1990, the region’s population has grown 31 percent; it is anticipated to grow an additional 16 percent by 2025. As the population has grown, the availability of homes for sale/rent that are affordable to existing and new residents has not kept pace. Reasons include an expensive housing market and discrepancies between wages and home prices.

Many members of the community cannot afford to purchase a home. A worker must earn $45.11 an hour to afford the average priced home in the Charleston region ($281,459), yet the average hourly wage is $19.80.

The majority of residents cannot afford the current housing market. Approximately 33 percent of homeowners and 50 percent of renters are living in housing they cannot afford.

The demand is changing but the market is not keeping pace. 61 percent of housing are single-family; however, with household sizes decreasing and single-person households increasing, this type of housing may not meet the demand.

These are the facts. Now, what can we do to address the issue? We must create a collaborative effort of local governments, housing providers, community leaders, private sector businesses, non-profit organizations, and other key stakeholders to address the housing affordability crisis in the region and plan for the future of our community.

We must create a viable housing strategy to guide regional decision-making to keep housing costs affordable to the region’s residents.

We must increase the proportions of workforce housing that is located in close proximity to employment centers and existing public infrastructure.

We must increase average hourly wages, encourage the recruitment of businesses and industries that pay higher wages, and train residents to obtain higher paying jobs.

CLF is part of this effort…are you?