LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

in Contributors/Lolita Huckaby/News/Voices by

Local governments try different approaches

Beaufort – While local real estate prices continue to amaze us, the effort to provide “work force” or “affordable” housing continues even as employers try to find employees to keep businesses open.

Whether we’re talking about “work force” housing – for the middle-income folks like school teachers, police officers, and nurses who keep our society working – or “affordable” which is everyone else, community leaders have studied the issue almost to death in the past 20 years as the Lowcountry population has grown, and places to live have gotten more expensive.

The Beaufort City Council took a look this week at their task force’s latest efforts to find a solution, focusing on what’s needed for the future including what’s already planned.

The report, for example, shows the need for 123 more rental units in the $500 to $874 monthly range by the end of next year. By 2027, that need will grow to 202 units.

To meet the need of those wishing to buy homes in the lowest price range of $100,000 to $199,000, an additional 99 homes will be needed by the end of the year. By 2027, that number increases to 249 homes.

The task force recommends a variety of regulation changes including amendments to the city Development Code deleting maximum and minimum sizes for accessory dwelling units; continuing to donate land to non-profits for homes; increase opportunities for townhouses and multi-family residences.

Hilton Head Island’s town council, who realize a reported 16,000 workers drive onto the island to work daily, has been working on its own incentives, also focusing on development agreements to promote more affordable housing.

Mayor John McCann is even talking about a November referendum asking voters to support a new tax specifically to build affordable housing.

Bluffton, which has an Affordable Housing Committee, is moving forward with plans for approximately 100 units on three parcels of land owned by the town. The residences would be built for low- to moderate-income families by a private developer in contract with the town.

The county, in the meantime, tried to hire someone to coordinate housing efforts two years ago and couldn’t manage to get someone in that position.

Maybe that person couldn’t find a place to live.

And Port Royal, their town council is watching as new apartment complexes and housing developments sprout within their municipal limits like mushrooms.

At least we’ll have places to shop.

Closing the divide

OKATIE – While folks try to find places to live, a new shopping opportunity has been announced on S.C. 170 near McGarvey’s Corner.

Plans for a 30,000-square-foot strip mall are in the works to provide spacing for more shops and restaurants.

The proposed Terrace at Okatie Crossings will not be far from Sun City as well as the new Beaufort Memorial Hospital annex.

The now-wooded site was annexed by the town of Hardeeville some time ago and the development plans have already been approved.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.