Business is booming, but for many of the employees at the hotels and restaurants that line Main Street in Greenville, S.C., living downtown is simply too expensive.
That’s why the city plans to invest $2 million from Greenville’s surplus General Fund toward affordable housing. Some of that money will enable nonprofit organizations to develop initiatives that will curb the negative effects of gentrification, a term used to describe when cities like Greenville develop blighted neighborhoods, but ultimately drive property values up and lower-income people out of homes they have often lived in for decades.
City leaders want to encourage a “live-work” environment supported by a mix of housing types reflecting a variety of levels including housing opportunities for low- to moderate-income families. This commitment is reinforced in a RFP for nonprofits to develop or construct affordable housing within designated areas of Greenville. The grant opportunity is listed here along with other affordable housing proposal requests on GrantWatch.com
Greenville ranks as the fourth fastest-growing city in the nation. For decades, the city had been unsuccessful in attempts to grow its population and recover from suburban flight began in the 1960s. Meanwhile, steady investments in infrastructure, such as a new city park planned west of downtown, has accumulated surpluses in tax revenues were set aside to accommodate future growth in the population.
But, with a population of some 68,000, an increase of nearly 3,000 in just one year, the Greenville Housing Authority claims the city falls short by some 3,000 affordable housing units.
Affordable housing studies show that a single parent with one child wishing to rent a home in Greenville County for $729 a month would need to earn $20.86 an hour. However, Greenville businesses are dependent on employing construction workers, retailers, and cashiers who make either minimum wage or a little bit above.
The Greenville Housing Authority says the number of property owners who typically rent out to affordable housing organizations has been dwindling over the years because landlords have decided they can get more money by renting to people at market price.
Alex Darrington, a chef at Limoncello, one of two new restaurants to open in Greenville, says downtown is where people in the restaurant business want to work, but where few can afford housing. Restaurant owners say the lack of public transportation has made staffing their restaurants with busboys, prep cooks and dishwashers that much more difficult.
The city wants to target affordable units to people making $15,000 or less and paying more than 50-60 percent of their income on housing.