By Cindy Ladnrum | Original Article
April 27, 2018

With the exception of the City of Greenville, housing in Greenville County is quite affordable and rarely attached to a long commute, a consultant told members of the Greenville County Council — as long as a household earns at least $30,00 a year.

Those who don’t struggle.

“The rough lesson is don’t be old, don’t be single, don’t be old and single, don’t be a mom and single,” said Charles Buki, of czbLLC, the Alexandria, Va.-based urban planning and neighborhood development consulting firm that was hired to do an affordable housing analysis for the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority and Greenville County. The firm completed a similar study for the City of Greenville in 2016.

The county has a shortage of 9,432 housing units that are affordable to households earning less than $25,000 per year, a group that makes up more than 23 percent of those who reside in Greenville County but outside the boundaries of the City of Greenville, according to the study.

Greenville’s downtown vibrancy hinges on tourism, restaurants, and hotels, which rely on $8-to-$10-an-hour labor to clean rooms, bus tables, and tend bar, Buki said. Using the commonly accepted definition of affordable as being no more than 30 percent of household income, the $520 monthly rent they can afford is infeasible for the private market to deliver without subsidy, he said.

In Greenville County, there are 60,000 households whose maximum affordable rent is less than for-profit developers need to break even, Buki said.

“Should the county’s trajectory of economic growth continue, it is only a matter of time before teachers and first responders also find themselves priced out of good housing options,” the study said.

Right now, households with annual incomes between $40,000 and $60,000, who are able to afford rents between $1,100 and $1,700 a month, have the capacity to find a good apartment near their jobs in the county. But there is a shortage of homes to buy that are priced between $140,000 and $220,000. That means they’ll rent longer, occupying apartments that would otherwise be rented by households with slightly lower incomes, or they will buy outside of the county, Buki said.

“In a funny way, you hope Spartanburg doesn’t become more livable,” Buki told members of the Greenville County Council’s ad-hoc affordable housing subcommittee.

Buki said that some county residents in low-paying jobs grow their housing capacity by marriage or partnership with another low-wage worker. A worker making $9 an hour who is married to a minimum-wage worker can afford $938 in monthly rent, more than enough to find a good apartment in the county.

“Your county is superbly set up for a couple but is disastrously set up for a single,” he said.

Buki recommended the county work to preserve and improve existing stock of affordable housing, help qualified low- and moderate-income working households employed in Greenville County become homeowners in the county, and add to the supply of affordable rental housing through new rental housing development. Buki recommended the county spend $36.4 million over the next five years to address the problem. That money would help 675 households per year.

Greenville County housing by the numbers

69.71 percent
Homeownership rate in Greenville County (excluding the City of Greenville)

New affordable housing units needed each year in Greenville County to keep up with expected growth. That’s in addition to the number of new units needed to address the existing shortage.

Estimated median monthly rent

Number of affordable housing units Greenville County is short to meet the needs of households with incomes of less than $25,000 per year

Households living in poverty

Estimated income needed to afford the median rent

Estimated income needed to needed to buy a home in Greenville County

Households in Greenville County not in the City of Greenville

Cost of home the typical Greenville County household not in the City of Greenville can afford

$8.537 million
Amount Greenville County would have to provide per year in direct and indirect housing development activities for each of the next 20 years to properly address its existing and anticipated affordable housing challenges.