Charleston SC Chamber Assesses Economics of Local Housing Market
Despite the recent volatility of the national housing market, the supply of attainable housing for the working professionals, or "workforce housing," continues to be an issue that affects local economies and workforces. Therefore, chambers of commerce and their employer members, continue to be engaged on the issue. Last year, the Charleston (SC) Metro Chamber of Commerce's Center for Business Research and the Lowcountry Housing Trust teamed up conducted an assessment of the their market by analyzing past, current and future trends in order to better understand the relationship between economic growth and projected potential housing needs/demand. Earlier this year, the groups issued their findings in a report, Housing in the Charleston, S.C. Region: A 2007 Affordability Assessment.
The study evaluated housing affordability trends by zip code in order to better understand the linkage between affordability, wages and jobs, and increasing congestion and sprawl. Additionally, the study was aided by a technical working group which looked at the regulation of the housing industry locally and its impact upon housing costs. By working with national experts in the field of affordability and workforce housing, the group studied other communities and what they have implemented to address affordability issues.
In addition to awareness and education, the report introduces the following recommendations:
- Development of workforce housing near major employment centers is essential.
- Local governments and businesses should provide employee-assisted housing programs for their employees through down-payment assistance or other financial incentives to live closer to work.
- State government should provide tax incentives and/or credits to businesses that implement employee-assisted housing programs for their employees.
According to Mary Graham, vice president, economic research for the chamber, the two groups "are now in the process of advocating for these changes. This includes briefing various groups in the greater Charleston region on the reports findings and recommendations, including government officials. The Town of Mt. Pleasant recently gave first reading and approval to their housing affordability ordinance; it's the first that has been developed and now moving towards adoption since the study was produced. Our regional Council of Governments kicked off an 18-month regional planning project in late July and we made sure that we had a voice at the event, advocating that a regional housing plan be part of their study and will continue to push that recommendation."