Every day, teachers, librarians, firefighters and others in our communities face a choice no one should have to make: housing or food. In the simplest arguments, this is why workforce housing is essential.
Workforce housing is a term that is being increasingly used to describe housing that is affordable for households with an earned income that is insufficient to secure quality housing within a reasonable proximity to a workplace.
The term “workforce” refers to those who are gainfully employed and represents a group of people who are not typically thought of as the focus of affordable housing. Many of those affected by the lack of affordable housing in our region include those who work in the service and tourism industry, which is the region’s largest employer. These employees earn minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour.
Others affected by the lack of affordable housing include the aforementioned school teachers, firefighters, bank tellers, nurses, bus drivers and senior citizens. Individuals and families are equally affected. It is estimated that one out of every five children in the region lives in substandard housing.
According to a Housing Affordability Assessment conducted by the SC Community Loan Fund and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, more than 77,000 households (about one-third of the population in the region) pay more than half of their annual income on housing needs. In order for housing to be considered “affordable,” a household would spend less than 30% of their annual income.
SC Community Loan Fund believes that providing workforce housing is important because it provides a basic need to individuals and families. It’s also important as it relates to the economic development of the region, as it helps attract and retain essential workers. It also provides benefits to the community like reduced traffic congestion, as well as a sense of place and pride.
Another organization that is working to provide affordable/workforce housing is the S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority. Its Palmetto Heroes program is a $10 million initiative designed to help South Carolina law enforcement officers, correctional officers, teachers, firefighters, nurses, veterans and EMS personnel who want to become homeowners.
The Palmetto Heroes program provides low-interest home loans to members of these professions who qualify. Eligible participants can get a fixed interest rate of 3.75% on a mortgage, as well as down payment assistance of up to $5,000.
For more information about workforce housing, please contact SC Community Loan Fund at www.sccommunityloanfund.org.