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Serious rental shortages trending in Charleston

Charleston by far has the most advanced shortage of affordable housing in South Carolina. If the trend holds, the Charleston area may soon find itself struggling to attract workers to its growing job market, mirroring what is happening in San Francisco, Denver and Seattle.

Everyday 50 new residents are coming to the Holy City because of its image of “one of the best cities to live in the U.S.” Consequently, her housing market is booming: on average, it'll cost around $1,000 a month for a one bedroom/one bath in West Ashley. It's closer to $1,200 a month on James Island, Johns Island, Daniel Island and Mount Pleasant.

The Downtown Peninsula rentals are more expensive than apartments in most cities across the country. The average rent for a one-bedroom in Downtown Charleston is $1,600 a month (most of those don't even include basic amenities like a washer/dryer or parking), while 1BRs in Chicago will cost $1,556, Atlanta $1,200, Cincinnati $1,015.

On top of that, Charleston income can’t keep up with these rent prices. Average rent prices have climbed 16 percent since 2014, while average wages in the region have remained 15 percent below the national average.

Ideally households should spend no more than a third of their income on housing and utility costs. That way, they can afford health care, groceries, savings and other necessities.

But with Charleston rental rates, teachers, nurses, police officers and hospitality/food workers often can’t afford to live in the communities they serve. Many are heading farther into the outskirts like Summerville or Goose Creek in search of affordable housing. Experts say that most of the development during the next 10 years will take place in these areas. That means more commuters piling onto the already congested roads.

Big companies like Boeing, Mercedes, Volvo and Bosch bring high-paying manufacturing jobs, helping drive that projected growth. According to Trulia.com, a one bedroom one bath in Goose Creek or Hanahan rents for just under $700 per month. A similar one in Summerville and Ladson will cost around $900/mo. However, with more development expected for the area, those prices will eventually have to go up.

A housing shortage might seem ridiculous if you’re counting the cranes dotting the skyline and the long list of new developments in the works. But the reality shows that even if all the planned projects were built today, working families might not be able to afford them. Higher construction costs and climbing land values have made developers more likely to build large single-family homes and luxury apartments than modestly-priced units such as townhomes.

Charleston is a coastal city and can’t grow in all directions like Charlotte or Atlanta, especially when rivers and wetlands cover much of the landscape. So in order to keep its excellent image and to fill in the jobs in growing industries Charleston authorities will have to act quickly and effectively.

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