Myrtle Beach inching closer towards closing workforce housing gaps for workers

Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 8:13 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Housing experts are advising members of Myrtle Beach City Council to take a different approach towards creating more affordable living options for workers in Myrtle Beach.

This recommendation came after city leaders were provided updates on the final workforce housing report during a workshop on Thursday.

The Habitat for Humanity of Horry County partnered with the city to create a workforce housing study, aimed at determining ways to overcome the lack of housing options for city employees.

Since January 2021, the workforce team conducted a needs assessment and studied best practices to see where workforce housing programs flourished in South Carolina.

During Thursday’s city workshop, project leader Chad Charles, who is also Habitat’s Assistant Executive Director, presented a “toolbox of recommendations” to councilmembers, outlining ways the city can create more affordable housing options for workers.

“It is extremely important,” Charles said. “When you add on the transportation costs, for folks getting here, it makes a lot more sense for them to stay closer to where they live.”

Charles says there are nearly 41,000 jobs inside the city limits of Myrtle Beach. After examining the job sectors and salaries, he says the project dug deeper and found a contrast between workforce housing in comparison to what was actually on the market.

He also says the city should set a goal of constructing close to 600 new housing units each year

However, this request would not require city leaders to change course. Over 560 new units are already under construction annually, ranging from rentals to those for sale.

Charles is requesting city leaders shift their focus on how those new units are being used, so they can instead create workforce housing options.

For example, out of 250 new rental units created each year, he’s proposing 35% or 87 units, be dedicated to the workforce sector annually over the next decade.

He’s also recommending 317 new homeownership units built annually, which boils down to 17% or 53 units, be produced for workforce housing.

In addition to those percentage suggestions, Charles says the city should build at least 200 units for the seasonal workforce, on top of the 567 units being built each year.

The goal would be to accommodate households earning from 50-120% of the area’s median income, which sits at $43,000.

Charles also proposed what rent prices could potentially look like for a Myrtle Beach worker.

“The workforce housing rents, zero bedroom all the way through a two-bedroom, anywhere from $300 to $918. Those are the rents we’re trying to hit. And that really determines their income as well as how many people are in that household,” Charles said.

Charles also outlined ways to keep a home attainable and affordable for residents using the workforce program for years to come. That includes taking advantage of incentives during the affordability period for the home.

“The area median income on ten-year average increases by 22%,” he said. “So if somebody bought a house this year, used some incentives that were here in the workforce housing initiative, and they pay $219,000 for the house and decided they wanted to sell it five years from now, they can divide that 22% in half because we went from ten years to five years. They can get $243,000 for that house. Five years from now, that would be recorded as an affordability period. What that does is allows them to see some equity they built in that house over a period of five years but also keeps it attainable for the future workforce.”

Some, including city leaders, have expressed concerns about how long it’s taking for the workforce housing process to take hold in Myrtle Beach. Based on what he’s seeing, Charles said the city is making positive waves towards overcoming these barriers.

“It’s how far along they are in this process even though they don’t realize it. They feel like they’re a little bit behind the game but the things they’ve created over the last three to four years has really put them in a position to accelerate the workforce housing,” he said.

The next step is for city officials and those involved with the workforce housing initiative to determine what organization can turn the study’s vision into a reality and create seasonal workforce housing in the city.

Leaders are expected to discuss this issue further during an upcoming budget retreat.

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