A diverse group of over 115 community leaders filled the Complex for Industrial and Economic Development at Trident Technical College to discuss our region’s housing and economic development needs at South Carolina Community Loan Fund’s third annual Tri-County Housing Summit on June 12th. The group included members of the business community, housing industry professionals, service providers, faith and community based organizations, local elected and governmental officials. Everyone shared at least one thing in common though: a belief that there is a tremendous need for affordable housing throughout the tri-county.

Here are five key things we learned at this year’s housing summit:

1. “You’re either growing or you’re dying.”

The inevitability and necessity of growth is something that resounded throughout the housing summit. “You’re either growing or you’re dying,” declared Joseph Minicozzi, principal of Urban3, LLC and housing summit keynote speaker. We are growing (thankfully), and at rapid rates. The tri-county population is estimated to reach one million by 2027. So, as SCCLF’s Michelle Mapp emphasized in her opening remarks: “The question is not if we will grow but how we will grow.”

The region’s high cost of living and inadequate transportation infrastructure make us one of the least affordable metros in the Southeast. Our existing transportation is inadequate to handle current needs and future growth. We need to align all sectors involved in our region’s growth in order to increase the number of affordable housing units that are available to tri-county residents. “Charleston is going to grow and continue to grow,” explained Vince Graham from Ion Group, “if we don’t have the supply it’s going to cause costs to go up and push people farther out.”

2. Millennials aren’t going to live with their parents forever

Panelist Lauren Newman from Charleston Young Professionals informed the crowd that “what [millennials] want is not out there”. She explained that despite common beliefs, millennials aren’t actually going to live with their parents forever and they do want to purchase homes, just not the homes that are available on the market. “They don’t need a four-bedroom home,… but maybe a condo or townhouse with low maintenance.”

Newman, and the other panelists, also highlighted the importance of creating affordable housing options near jobs. The lack of affordable housing for the region’s workforce, including young professionals, that is a reasonable distance from businesses results in challenges recruiting and retaining highly skilled, young talent to the region.

3. There are tools out there to help us grow

Tri-County Housing Summit keynote speaker, Joseph Minicozzi, delivered a compelling presentation on development and the need for smart growth, centered on the Urban3 method. This method has become widely recognized as a paradigm shift in city planning and thinking about development patterns. Minicozzi presented a case study from Asheville, analyzing the relationship between city design and tax revenue, and demonstrating how we can better allocate resources. Click here for more information on Urban3 and Joseph Minicozzi’s work.

This presentation led to a conversation between attendees about the possibility of utilizing this mapping method in Charleston to further examine the positive impact that compact development would have on our roads, housing market and local economy.

4. We need to vote for housing

This year’s summit was titled “2015 Tri-Country Housing Summit: A Vote for Housing!” and appropriately so as much of the day’s conversation revolved around the idea that our votes are the key to change. “We continue to vote in candidates that are in total opposition to what we all know is needed for the region,” SCCLF’s Michelle Mapp explained. She went on to say that there is little chance for low-income, high-density developments to become a reality if people continue to oppose upscale high-density developments such as Sergeant Jasper.

If we are serious about creating change and more affordable housing options we need to elect leaders that are responsive to housing affordability. Attendees were also encouraged to reach out to their local officials and speak out on these issues.

5. We should invest in organizations that mobilize our money­­­

Solving our region’s affordable housing crisis is going to require systemic change but panelist Jon Yarian from SeaChange suggested that there are immediate actions that community members can take. Yarian suggested that individuals research and invest in organizations like South Carolina Community Loan Fund that leverage resources to transform communities and increase the availability of affordable housing.


Click here for more information on South Carolina Community Loan Fund and our affordable housing program.