Charleston officials are trying to convince homeowners they should add small, affordable apartments to their properties, and the city is ready to offer financing to several residents to help them build this home.
The city’s Department of Housing and Community Development plans to provide up to $ 200,000 in grants this summer to 20 homeowners to help them build apartments above their garages or in yards behind their homes. .
The goal of the grant program is to foster more affordable housing options in areas of the city that are zoned for single-family residences.
Charleston City Council voted in August 2020 to change the zoning code to allow owners of these areas to build or renovate so-called secondary housing and rent it out as affordable housing. In Charleston, these structures are more commonly referred to as apartments, mother-in-law’s suites, or carriage houses.
The Planning Department released a study earlier this year showing Charleston is likely to need an additional 16,351 affordable homes and apartments over the next decade to keep up with expected population growth and ensure housing in the city is affordable. to people of all income brackets.
Geona Shaw Johnson, director of housing for Charleston, said adding small apartments behind people’s homes alone will not solve the affordable housing crisis in the area, but it should make it easier to increase the housing stock. in parts of the city where there is not enough space to build larger apartment complexes.
âOur goal is to increase the number of units and housing choices available,â Johnson said. âWe know that in major cities and other municipalities across the country secondary suites are being used and that they are being used with great success.
The city’s new ordinance sets several limits for secondary suites: Apartment sizes are limited to 850 square feet. They cannot be used as a short term rental. Only two adults can live in a unit at a time. People who rent the apartment need enough space for an off-street parking space. And the owner is required to live in the house next to which the unit is located.
The city council has also decided to regulate the price at which owners can rent apartments in an attempt to promote affordability.
In order to receive a permit for secondary housing in the city, the landlord must agree to set the rental price so that it is available to individuals and families earning less than 80 percent of the Charleston area median income. This income level is currently around $ 45,400 for one individual or $ 51,850 for two people.
Even with these requirements, the landlord will still be able to charge more than $ 1,100 per month in rent. This represents about 30 percent of the renter’s annual income, which the federal government considers affordable.
As part of this setup, Johnson said, homeowners should also benefit from the extra money the apartment will bring in.
The median purchase price of a single-family home in Charleston County now exceeds $ 500,000, according to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors. That means adding rental income could help new homeowners pay off their mortgage faster, Johnson said, or allow older city residents to stay in their homes.
âIt’s a plus in my opinion,â Johnson said.
For now, the City is working on the permitting process for homeowners who wish to add secondary accommodation to their property. Johnson said his department is also working with architectural firms to develop pre-approved plans for homeowners to build these units.
She expects the city to start accepting applications for the grant program by late July or early August.
Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.