Charleston is known for its rich history, Southern culture, and exquisite houses. But beyond this beautiful façade, there lives a girl who knows a very different Charleston.
Meet Jordan, a 5-year-old girl who lives in the Silver Hill Neighborhood of Charleston. A neighborhood scattered with dilapidated houses, no easy access to a full service grocery store, no daycare or health center, and no local, community-based businesses in which her family can buy goods and services.
The Neck, as it is commonly referred, is roughly 300 acres of once-industrial riverfront land between the Ashley and Cooper rivers where Charleston and North Charleston meet. The site is currently at the center of discussions surrounding economic and community development efforts, development that will have a long-term impact on the economic prosperity of the City of Charleston and our region, and also on Jordan and her family. It is a unique development opportunity for our community and one we cannot afford to squander if we ALSO care about Jordan’s future.
So, we are at a fork in the road. What happens to Jordan and her neighborhood? Do we allow for the displacement of her family and gentrification of Charleston’s Neck, pushing Jordan and her friends out to the furthest fringes of our community and society? Or do we have the political will to counter NIMBY, enact innovative planning and zoning policies, and advocate for both public and private investment to support the development of affordable housing at a magnitude and scale to meet all of our community’s needs?
Do we create a place for Jordan to grow up and participate in the New Charleston, in a thriving, sustainable community with affordable housing, access to healthy food and essential services, community facilities, community businesses, exposure to different people, and most importantly, opportunity?
We must understand that if we try to separate social, cultural, and environmental development from economic development, it will not work. This is not a new concept. This has already been done before, right here in Charleston.
We have proven that housing for our lowest income residents can co-exist with housing for our highest income residents. We have proven that when you invest in strengthening the fabric of our community, by investing in affordable housing and small businesses that create and sustain wealth for the poorest in our community, that this is not just good community development, this is good economic development.
These community assets not only create a sense of place. They create wealth. They create business owners. They create jobs. They empower people to be better, to do better, and to want better. They create a healthy, vibrant, sustainable community.
The solution? We must invest in affordable housing by supporting high-density, mixed-use development at a magnitude and scale to meet our community’s need for diverse housing options at every income level.
We must do it for Silver Hill and the Neck. We must do it for Charleston. We must do it for Jordan.
SCCLF executive director, Michelle Mapp, presented Beyond the Façade at the Mayoral Forum in Charleston. Join us as we continue the conversation at the 2015 Tri-County Housing Summit: A Vote for Housing on June 12 in North Charleston.