[image-1]A $12 million plan to fund improvements in Charleston’s East Side and East Central neighborhoods coupled with a proposed $20 million bond referendum this November could bolster affordable housing in areas of the city that need it the most.

Wednesday evening, Charleston City Council gave initial approval to a plan to raise $12 million in bonds, leveraging funds through a tax increment financing district to pay for infrastructure improvements in these communities. Although the list of projects has yet to be finalized, $10 million in improvements have been identified. Included among the currently proposed projects for the Cooper River Bridge TIF District are $1 million in improvements to Huger Street, $2 million to evaluate drainage in the area, $2.25 million to go toward revitalizing the St. Julian Devine Community Center on Cooper Street, $1 million for pedestrian and multimodal improvements, and $2 million for improvements to Singleton Park.

According to city spokesman Jack O’Toole, City Council also decided to allow plans to bolster affordable housing in the district. A public hearing is currently scheduled for Sept. 26 at the Gibbes Museum of Art, during which City Council will discuss the redevelopment projects to be included in the final plan.

The possible inclusion of affordable housing improvements as a part of the $12 million bond spending provides another mechanism by which city officials can help increase housing opportunities for those being priced out of the community. In April, City Council gave initial approval to a resolution to include a $20 million bond referendum on the ballot in November. According to O’Toole, City Council must still vote to finalize the language on the referendum, but the voters will make the final decision on how best to increase affordability throughout the city.

“The city of Charleston like many cities across our nation is faced with the challenge of a shortage of rental and ownership housing affordable to persons of very low, low, and moderate incomes. Statistics show that the median price of a home in the city of Charleston is over $400,000,” reads the opening of the city’s proposed bond referendum allocation plan. “Affordable rents on average range from $975 to $1,189 per months, while market rate rents range in price from $1,250 to $1,800 in the Charleston community.”

Among the current list of proposed initiatives for spending the $20 million is the purchase and development of 1-3 acres of land on the peninsula. The estimated cost of this acquisition is set at $1.8 million, and the projected 100 housing units produced under this program would be targeted at those earning 30-120 percent of the area median income.

Approximately $9 million would be spent on developing and rehabilitating properties transferred to the city by local developers for use as affordable housing. This would include adding 60 affordable units in the Upper Peninsula, 270 in the Cooper River Bridge Redevelopment area, and 100 new units in West Ashley. If approved, this plan would funnel another $4 million into the Cooper River Bridge Redevelopment area, in addition to the $12 million in TIF funding.

Coupled with rental rehabilitation to blighted properties, the $20 million bond application plan proposal would add more than 800 estimated affordable units across the city.

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