GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Louis Morant has lived in the Georgetown area his whole life. He has known for a long time that finding an affordable place to live in Georgetown County can be difficult, but now he has the data to back it up.
“I wasn’t totally surprised,” Morant said. “Sometimes people come and ask me if I know of any rental housing available and I really can’t tell them of any.”
Like much of the rest of the country, Georgetown is in dire need of affordable housing. Bowen National Research put together a housing needs assessment of the area and found over the next five years the county will need 670 rental units and 2,203 for-sale houses.
Georgetown Director of Economic Development Brian Tucker says the report sheds light on a few issues.
“It boils down to two things. One, there’s not enough affordable and, two, there’s not enough available,” Tucker said. “The development community can take away from this the fact that there is a demand for housing in Georgetown and Georgetown County.”
Housing is needed in every price range, but the report shows most of the public sector and service industry workers are making less than $40,000 a year. The most expensive rent they can afford is $994 a month or a $125,589 house. The report found just one market-priced apartment available as of February in that range – a studio priced at $675 a month.
“Georgetown County is not a high-income type of area but when you look at the cost of construction, the cost of building these houses, the affordability question comes into play,” Murant said. “If we are going to sustain our residents, we have to find a way to work within their means.”
Poverty is a problem in much of Georgetown County with a poverty rate at 18.3%, two points higher than the state average.
There are really two chunks of the county – the Waccamaw Neck where homes cost $450,000 and the median income is $65,000 and the rest of the county.
In those other areas income shrinks to less than $40,000 and the poverty rates skyrocket anywhere from 13.9% to 32.9%.
Tucker says if they can make development cheaper, they can bring down the cost of rent.
“I think there will be a deeper dive on development cost and wrapped up in development costs are fees, impact fees, taxes, just dirt cost and engineering,” Tucker said. “I think there needs to be some things we do, some tools we use to help lower development cost.”
The report shows developers have to build a house in the $300,000 range or rent a unit for $1,100 a month in order to make a profit.
“I think what we can do as a council is to look at our zoning laws and the fees that the county imposes on builders to see if there’s anything there to make some kind of adjustment,” Murant said. “We can look at our regulations to see if there is anything we can do to offset some of the cost of construction in our county.”
The report found just seven houses are currently available under $200,000 and only 65 less than $300,000.
There are zero subsidized apartments available and just 19 non-subsidized units – many outside of the affordable range for the median income.