Not enough affordable housing available for active-duty military in SC, base leaders say

Leaders of military installations in and near South Carolina update Gov. Henry McMaster during...
Leaders of military installations in and near South Carolina update Gov. Henry McMaster during their annual commanders briefing in Columbia on Oct. 6, 2022.(Mary Green)
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 7:22 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -

South Carolina is becoming one of the most popular states for Americans to move to.

But leaders at the state’s eight military installations say this is creating problems for service members and their families looking for a place to live.

Limited affordable housing near military bases was one of the concerns repeatedly brought up during the annual governor’s commanders briefing in Columbia on Thursday, when the leaders of installations in and near South Carolina updated Gov. Henry McMaster and state Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Will Grimsley on how they are doing.

“Quality and affordable housing continues to be a challenge for Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort,” MCAS Beaufort Commander Col. Karl Arbogast said, describing it as “the most pressing issue” facing personnel on his installation.

Active-duty service members in 28 locations across the country recently received a bump in their Basic Allowance for Housing, the money they get from the federal government to offset housing costs.

Out of those 28 locations, just one is in South Carolina: the Beaufort area, home to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and Beaufort Naval Hospital.

“However, it doesn’t mitigate the challenges we see with distance from the base, the commute, and it doesn’t help the civilian Marines that work on the air station,” Col. Arbogast said.

Last year, no military housing areas in South Carolina received a bump in housing allowance, so Grimsley and installation leaders said even one receiving it this year is an appreciated step.

But they had hoped both the Charleston and Sumter areas would also receive this increase, with service members experiencing housing challenges there, too.

“As the home prices increase, our members are moving further and further away from home, which is putting them on longer and longer commutes, which is happening across that entire region,” Joint Base Charleston Commander Col. Mike Freeman said.

“The availability of housing does not match the need and the demand that is facing our airmen today,” Col. Kris Smith, commander of Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, added.

The U.S. Department of Defense determines which areas receive increases in housing allowances. According to the DoD, those are the areas that have experienced a spike of more than 20% in rental housing costs this year above this year’s basic allowance for housing rates, on average.

Grimsley said they will keep working with South Carolina’s Congressional delegation to advocate for the inclusion of more areas in the state in the future.

“We’ll continue to push this,” Grimsley told reporters. “We have to be able to reduce the inequity. We’re always going to pay something out of pocket for our housing above and beyond the housing allowance. But especially for our young-to-midgrade enlisted force and our young officers, this is a real challenge.”

Upon the recommendation of South Carolina Commerce Secretary Harry Lightsey, Grimsley said they will also look into working with the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority, which provides financing for affordable housing, to see if that agency could offer assistance in areas around installations.

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