City of Greenville Launches Community-wide Plan to Address Affordable Housing

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Greenville Housing Fund (GHF) and Greenville County Redevelopment Authority (GCRA) have launched a community-wide strategic plan to unify the city and county in addressing housing affordability.

Housing, being one of our essential needs, also is one of the main determinants of health, educational outcomes, and economic mobility. In Greenville, both throughout the city and county there nearly 50,000 cost burdened households who pay more than 30% of their income towards housing, some of which are substandard.

The strategic plan process began in the fall of 2019 and was conducted by Thomas P Miller & Associates (TPMA). Over the past year TPMA held stakeholder interviews, workshops, and gathered data regarding barriers around affordable housing, as well as innovative solutions to these problems.

The plan is a continuation of a year-long affordable housing study the City of Greenville conducted in 2016, which resulted in the “Balancing Prosperity and Housing Affordability in Greenville” report. The study determined that the city of Greenville had a deficit of 2,500 affordable housing units and Greenville County had a deficit of more than 9,000 affordable housing units. The report included a recommendation to create a housing trust fund to receive and disburse money to support the production and preservation of affordable housing units.

In January 2017, Greenville City Council appropriated $2 million to establish a housing trust fund and in March 2018, the Greenville Housing Fund opened its doors. The Greenville Housing Fund’s goals are to serve as an advocate and champion for affordable housing in Greenville, invest in affordable housing development and preservation, and acquire land to facilitate affordable housing development opportunities.

“Since 2018, GHF has supported more than 540 units of affordable and workforce housing through innovative public and private partnerships.  The release of this plan builds on that success and positions our community to address the crisis of housing affordability,” said Bryan Brown, CEO of the Greenville Housing Fund.

The recommendations from the study continued to guide the city’s efforts, and in 2018, city council approved an ordinance that established a special tax assessment for low to moderate-income rental housing and designated a new Low and Moderate Housing Rehabilitation District. The ordinance provided the city with additional tools to utilize in its ongoing efforts to preserve the existing inventory of affordable housing and since then, two multi-family developments – Greenville Summit and Stratham Place – have utilized it to maintain their properties for low to moderate-income housing.

The Affordable Housing Strategy plan was presented virtually to a joint session of Greenville City and County Council on October 15.

Key takeaways: 

  • Most cost burdened households (spending more than 30 percent of income on housing) in the city and county are under 35 years old.
  • Nearly 20 percent of those in low income census tracts do not have access to a vehicle.
  • Housing affordability is more acute in Greenville County than in the city of Greenville due to lack of affordable rental options and increasing cost of homeownership.
  • The market is not providing for one and two bedrooms, critical to those under 35, young families, and our service industry workforce.
  • There are over 40,000 households in the county who earn 80% AMI or below that are cost burdened.

GCRA has and continues to be a leader in partnering and constructing affordable and workforce housing in Greenville County. Since 1974, GCRA has produced thousands of affordable homes in addition to providing grants and low interest loans to residents to reduce the housing burden in a high growth community.

John Castile, Executive Director of GCRA says, “The need for affordable housing options in our community is an essential part of our growth strategy.  The worldwide pandemic disproportionally impacts those who earn less than the County’s median household income.  Now more than ever, affordable housing options for our current and future resident must remain a high priority.”

The City of Greenville’s Community Development Division works to create and support affordable housing ownership and rental opportunities for city residents. Those efforts include leveraging federal funding, providing property for the construction of new affordable housing, working collaboratively with non-profit and for-profit partners to facilitate the development of affordable housing, and providing expertise and guidance through the entire development process. The City has also continued to contribute funding to address the affordable housing needs and the City’s FY2021 budget includes an additional $2 million for affordable housing to include new construction, owner-occupied home rehabilitation, and rental assistance.

Strategies to address housing barriers:

  • Increase affordable housing preservation through acquisition of naturally occurring affordable housing with a goal of 3,000 units over ten years.
  • Increase production of affordable housing through leveraged private and public investment with a goal of 10,000 units over ten years.
  • Identified locations for affordable housing (close to services, employment, education, transportation)
  • Housing finance tools such as utilizing local, state and federal tax credits and incentives, land banking, opportunity funds and innovative partnerships

Additionally, the plan calls for the establishment of a communitywide coalition. This GHF led group, Greenville Affordable Housing Coalition (GAHC), will serve as the entity dedicated to carrying out this strategic plan, with members from non-profits, neighborhoods, government (including other municipalities), and private development.

“With the same spirit of collaboration that has served this community so well, we look forward to expanding our efforts to address Greenville’s affordable housing needs by working with our public and private partners to leverage every possible resource. This serves as an affirmation to the public of our commitment to ensuring the availability of safe, quality affordable housing now and for generations to come,” says Mayor Knox White.

Butch Kirven, Chairman of Greenville County Council says, “I’m more optimistic than ever about the future of Greenville County. Ensuring that good quality housing is attainable to more people is vital to a thriving and healthy community for all. We can do that by thoughtfully applying the unique tools and capabilities of both the private and the public sectors.”

GHF and GCRA have asked for the creation of a working group comprised of both city and county elected officials to work in tandem with GAHC to prioritize these strategies and their implementation.

Greenville Housing Fund is a non-profit convener, advocate, investor, and funder, of affordable housing. GHF is committed to increasing the supply of quality affordable housing across Greenville County.

Greenville County Redevelopment Authority is Greenville County Redevelopment Authority (GCRA) works to improve the living conditions of the county’s residents by building new homes, rehabilitating existing homes and improving the infrastructures within communities.  We believe every resident in Greenville County deserves a chance to own or rent a home that fits within their budget.

Prepared by the City of Greenville.