The first fruits of an affordable housing program started by the city in 2017 are ripe for the picking: seven new homes in the Maryville-Ashleyville neighborhood priced from about $140,000 to around $200,000.
Yes, it’s just a drop in the bucket in a region where home prices and rents have been rising faster than incomes and the median home price is about $270,000, but it’s an encouraging start, a piece of the puzzle.
And the seven homes should go a long way toward helping prop up one of West Ashley’s oldest African-American neighborhoods, which recently lost a long-standing mobile home park to redevelopment.
In some cases, the new owners will put down as little as $2,500 to swing the purchases, with the city covering down payments up to $50,000, thanks to in part to federal Community Development Block Grants and the federal HOME Investment Partnership Program. That will provide much-needed help to lift some families into home ownership.
The capital, about $1.6 million, was raised through a city affordable housing initiative that entitles apartment developers to extra density if they contribute to an affordable housing fund or set aside 20 percent of their units for affordable housing.
Proceeds from sales of the seven homes will be plowed back into affordable housing. And the homes will remain deed-restricted for 90 years, meaning they will stay affordable with resale prices allowed to rise based only on the consumer price index and area’s median income. That’s the kind of durability that should amplify the affordability of the homes for generations.
With federal funding for affordable housing dwindling, “this is a kind of model that will be critical because it provides a level of funding that we might not otherwise be able to count on,” said Geona Shaw Johnson, director of Charleston’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
The two- and three-bedroom homes along Minnie Street and Sycamore Avenue are reserved for buyers with incomes of no more than 80 percent of the area’s median income – around $55,000 for a family of four – and current Maryville-Ashleyville residents are being given first dibs. Buyers are already lined up for at least four of the homes, and multiple applicants are ready to snatch up the others.
The small but meaningful investment in Maryville-Ashleyville is part of the city’s wider Homeownership Initiative that has created almost 1,000 affordable homes and 2,247 rental units, and rehabilitated more than 3,800 homes since the early 2000s, The Post and Courier’s David Slade reported in April.
Separately, the city will float $20 million in bonds this year to help create about 800 affordable housing units. The pending settlement of a lawsuit between the city and the nonprofit that helped build Charleston Place should also produce a tidy sum to be funneled into affordable housing.
Altogether, the city has plans to build about 940 affordable homes and create 800 rental units, making it the leader in the tri-county area, where other government-run affordable housing programs are all but nonexistent.
The seven Maryville-Ashleyville homes are a good example of how the city, at no cost to local taxpayers, can bolster a growing patchwork of nonprofits and faith-based groups working to keep the American dream alive through affordable homeownership.