To help educate the public on their elected officials’ ideas and platforms, Greenville Housing Fund created a candidate questionnaire, which we sent to each of the candidates for Greenville County Council campaigning in the 2020 election.  Below you can see the responses of each candidate and learn about their plans to address affordable housing issues in Greenville County.

District 20: Steve Shaw

Did not respond.

District 20: Farris Johnson

District Issues      
How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?
District 20’s housing consists mainly of detached, single –family, suburban homes. The lack of apartment complexes & multi-family units makes living in District 20 particularly difficult for renters. Additionally, District 20 has higher median housing costs – meaning many folks are outpriced from the housing market here.

2. The Availability of Affordable Housing  
Over 40% of homeowners and renters in the county are cost burdened, spending over 30% of their income on housing. And this percentage only includes those under 80% Area Median Income. The lack of supply—especially for those with the lowest incomes—has only made this problem worse. What would you do to encourage the production of more affordable homes for these families? And what would you do to support to local AH developers, including community organizations and private developers (e.g., incentives such as density/parking bonuses, reduced fees)?
Ensuring affordable housing for our neighbors is a moral obligation. Housing is a human right. Additionally, lack of housing is an issue of public health, public safety, & economic development.
We need to ensure affordable housing through a network of strategies, including:
– incentivizing building by providing tax-credits, density bonuses, & expediting processes for approval and permits
– addressing zoning laws that don’t make efficient use of land, don’t allow for multi-family developments, & don’t allow for density
– giving a yearly budget line item of at least 2 million to the Greenville Housing Fund
– an affordable housing bond to solicit public support
– destigmatizing low-income housing
– protecting renters and homeowners from predatory rent hikes & speculation

3. Workers               
Housing Wage in Greenville required for a one-bedroom household is $14.67. The Housing Wage for a two-bedroom household is $17.27. If working 40 hours per week, $14.67 equates to $30,513. Almost 30,000 Greenville County households are estimated to have an income below that amount. What investments or policy would you champion to address the growing gap between what workers can afford and housing costs?
As stated before, we must build more affordable housing units and protect existing affordable neighborhoods. However, this housing must be connected to good jobs, public transportation, and community centers. We can do this by prioritizing transit equity: fully-fund Greenlink, expand our routes, services, and fleet, create more public transit options, and connect our communities with safe bike lanes and greenways. Additionally, we need these services to connect folks with good jobs. Major job centers must be connected to these routes, and we can pursue relationships with these employers that help connect their workers to their jobs in a reliable and cost effective manner. Finally, County Council must push for Greenville to become a center for jobs that pay living-wages. One avenue that needs to be explored is incentivizing green-collar jobs (jobs in sustainability, green energy, or other eco fields). These green-collar jobs can provide living wages & help train our workforce in valuable 21st century skills.

4. Revitalizing Distressed Communities
Many low-income neighborhoods often lack access to employment, good schools, thriving local businesses, transportation, healthy food, and healthcare. How would you support public and private investments in housing development, preservation, and community development as part of a long-term strategy to revitalize distressed communities?
First and foremost, I’d listen to the folks who live in these neighborhoods. Self-determination, especially for marginalized communities, is critical when County Council seeks to help find solutions to these issues. In many instances, “revitalizing” communities has yielded gentrification and has been guided by a desire for profits, rather than people-centered solutions that give decision-making power to residents. To this end, my primary goal would be to sit and listen to residents from these communities.
As for helping folks have access to employment, businesses, nutritious food, and healthcare, public transit is key.
And finally, we must be honest about the economic disparities between Black and White residents in Greenville County, and acknowledge that these radical differences are not the result of bad personal decisions or random bad luck, but the lasting legacy of racist legislation. To this end, I support the call from the Malcolm X Center, Upstate Black Lives Matter, and the Upstate Abolition Project to defund the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office by 50% (23.5 million dollars) and reallocate these funds in ways that serve our community, particularly our Black and Brown neighbors. Imagine what this money could do to revitalize our distressed communities.

5. Seniors and children
More than half of senior renters and more than 1 in 4 senior homeowners pay more than they can afford for housing. Meanwhile, children without stable, affordable housing have lower educational and health outcomes. What will you do to ensure housing policy and resources support Greenville County’s seniors and students?
Again, a network of policies are needed. Relaxed zoning laws can allow for accessory units and multifamily units, which may allow more flexibility for seniors and families. However, the county should employee other means for ensuring security and safety for our residents. We must leverage public funds, through recurring line items and bonds, that provide rental and mortgage assistance to those in need. Housing is a human right.
As the daughter of a single mother, I know firsthand the impact of housing insecurity. As a community leader I will do everything in my power to destigmatize affordable housing and public housing. By educating our residents about the positive impact of affordable housing, we can gain public support for projects that keep our most vulnerable neighbors safe and secure.
Finally, I will oppose “uniform taxes” — such as the 2017 $14.95 fee. Uniform taxes do not impact our neighbors uniformly, especially folks who are on a fixed or low income.  

6. Housing Intersections  
Having an accessible, affordable place to call home is critical to improving education, health, and economic outcomes. What housing-based strategy would you use to address the education, health, transportation, and economic needs of low-income families? 

Affordable housing units need to be explicitly connected to community centers, educational opportunities, health care services (including mental health), and jobs that pay a living wage. This can either be by physical proximity (walking distance), or by efficient, accessible, cost-effective public transit. By ensuring low cost housing, we can prevent impossible financial tradeoffs that force families to sacrifice health, wellbeing, and opportunity for a roof over their heads.

7. Racial Disparities
In Greenville County, 7.5% percent of Black households are homeowners, compared to 56% percent of white households (The US average is 41.8% for black households and 71.9% for white households). How will you reduce the racial homeownership gap and other disparities in housing for households of color?
The comprehensive plan addresses this issue primarily through education:
“- educate and make realtors, bankers, and landlords aware of discriminatory housing policies and to promote fair housing opportunities for all county residents
– improve knowledge and awareness of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), related housing and discriminatory laws, and regulations, so that the residents in Greenville County can Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH).” Objective G-2
As stated in Question #4, Greenville must reckon with her long history of racist policies. This startling statistic is not random, it is purposeful – the lack of Black wealth in Greenville county is intentional. Greenville County must make reparations to our Black residents, use public funds to invest in Black communities, and ensure that our Black neighbors are no longer excluded from the promise and prosperity of Greenville County. Greenville County should establish a Reparations Commission to address these longstanding crimes against our Black neighbors.

8. Housing Challenges In Rural America  
Although millions of rural families have trouble paying their rent or mortgage, rural housing issues are often overlooked. Moreover, resources used by rural communities have been cut significantly. How would you prioritize the housing needs of rural communities in Greenville County?
Housing instability in rural areas is devastating because folks that experience homelessness in these areas are completely deprived of the resources necessary to help them find security. One possible solution is for Greenville County Council to support and develop an appropriate definition and standard for compact and “tiny” houses. Many tiny home neighborhoods end up as luxury communities, with small homes that are still far from affordable for most working people. Greenville County can partner with developers and nonprofits to find new ways of creating compact home communities in rural places that are linked to urban areas via public transit. Ensuring transit equity in rural areas can help people experiencing economic instability connect with resources, education, and employment they might not have access to otherwise.

Additionally, rural residents must be protected from developments that adversely impact their infrastructure and pass along those costs to existing residents. We can offset these costs by instituting Impact Fees for developers.

9. Housing Stability
Rental assistance is proven to reduce homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding, but 75% of residents who qualify do not receive this limited resource. What will you do to expand access to housing stabilization to every household that needs it? And in light of the expiration of the federal moratorium on evictions would you support additional funding in cases of extreme hardship, public health emergencies, economic recessions, etc.?

The impact of homelessness and housing instability on our community is far more costly than the cost simply helping folks make ends meet. Barriers to rental assistance should be lowered, County Council should make these programs accessible, and funding for these programs (whether through a government agency or nonprofit) should be increased.

10. Funding 
We cannot meet our growing, countywide housing needs without significant additional resources. Will you support a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing? Why or why not?

Absolutely. Whatever funding is needed to solve this crisis, you have my pledge that I will find it. Affordable housing is one of my top priorities. Housing is a human right, and thus it is a moral obligation for County Council to do its part in solving this crisis. Additionally, affordable housing is an issue of public health, public safety, and economic stability — it is absurd for public officials to believe this is an issue that we can leave to “the market” to sort out.

District 22: Stan Tzouvelekas

Did not respond.

District 22: Samantha Wallace

1) District Issues – How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?
My district (see map below) has a significant portion of population within the city of Greenville (approximately 40%) and the remainder within relatively close proximity of city limits (approximately 60% within the county). The existing housing, per the Comprehensive Plan, is primarily defined by the Character Areas of Traditional Neighborhoods, Neighborhood Business Districts and Core Neighborhoods. Given the close proximity to downtown Greenville for both professional and leisure/recreation opportunities, as well the nearby Patewood Medical campus and Haywood/Greenridge commercial corridors, the cost of housing has risen dramatically in the past decade. It’s become harder for single families to find affordable housing. There have been some examples of in-fill, although it’s tended to be for single family homes at the higher end of income levels, vs accessory dwellings or targeted affordable housing for lower income levels. While the district has seen some new apartment and mixed use development in recent years, it has been very limited and, again, not with a focus on lower income levels.

 

2) The Availability of Affordable Housing – Over 40% of homeowners and renters in the county are cost burdened, spending over 30% of their income on housing. And this percentage only includes those under 80% Area Median Income. The lack of supply—especially for those with the lowest incomes—has only made this problem worse.  What would you do to encourage the production of more affordable homes for these families? And what would you do to support to local AH developers, including community organizations and private developers (e.g., incentives such as density/parking bonuses, reduced fees)?
(Note: this is the same answer submitted to the NonProfit Alliance.) There are a minimum of 21 strategies outlined in the comprehensive plan on proactive ways the county can support an environment of affordable housing that aligns with a smart growth model. In addition to the targeted use of public funds for direct investment in collaboration with other local public and private partners, there are many incentives identified in the plan such as density bonuses and fee waivers or reductions, which I would support. I also support favorable zoning ordinances, the encouragement of employer-assisted housing, and “YIMBY” (Yes In My Backyard) practices such as accessory dwelling units.

 

3) Workers – Housing Wage in Greenville required for a one-bedroom household is $14.67. The Housing Wage for a two-bedroom household is $17.27. If working 40 hours per week, $14.67 equates to $30,513. Almost 30,000 Greenville County households are estimated to have an income below that amount. What investments or policy would you champion to address the growing gap between what workers can afford and housing costs?
At the County level, we should take specific steps to both recruit and preserve a supply of higher-wage jobs all the while taking proactive measures to ensure workforce readiness through strategic work-education partnerships, training and educational opportunities. The demand and supply of this equation are two sides of a coin that both need policy support. I would advocate for visibility of the key indicators that show our progress in this such as tracking a goal on the Countywide average hourly wage. As a business woman myself, I would be a vocal emissary moving through our business community helping to build awareness and understanding to ensure private-sector collaboration in addressing the wage gap.

 

4) Revitalizing Distressed Communities – Many low-income neighborhoods often lack access to employment, good schools, thriving local businesses, transportation, healthy food, and healthcare. How would you support public and private investments in housing development, preservation, and community development as part of a long-term strategy to revitalize distressed communities?
This is a matter of prioritizing and bringing visibility to our vulnerable communities, and it takes county council representatives thinking beyond just their own districts, thinking expansively about the health and growth of the entire county. More often than not, the voices and perspectives of the most vulnerable are not in the decision-making room, so intentionally ensuring representation is a choice elected officials have to make. My own district doesn’t share some of the heaviest burdens when it comes to distressed urban or rural communities realities, however I would be a collaborative, supportive voice on council advocating for the rising tide and the visibility of indicators that show our community is progressing regardless of what corner of the county we are addressing. Here again, the comprehensive plan is a tool to guide us as it also took into account numerous specific community plans that have been developed over the years in support of more vulnerable neighborhoods of our community.

 

5) Seniors and children – More than half of senior renters and more than 1 in 4 senior homeowners pay more than they can afford for housing. Meanwhile, children without stable, affordable housing have lower educational and health outcomes. What will you do to ensure housing policy and resources support Greenville County’s seniors and students?
In addition to the broad strategies and tools outlined in question #2, to support these two demographics of our community specifically, there should be a prioritized focus on affordable housing investment and preservation in strategic proximity to community and childcare centers as well as in planned proximity to safe, walkable routes, public transportation, medical centers and public schools. The old adage “location, location, location” means everything for our most vulnerable populations of seniors and children who are more limited in range, ease and safety of movement. For seniors, in particular, a focus on housing policy and investment that enables aging-in-place in safe, ADA-compliant home environments is critically important as well.

 

6) Housing Intersections – Having an accessible, affordable place to call home is critical to improving education, health, and economic outcomes. What housing-based strategy would you use to address the education, health, transportation, and economic needs of low-income families?
Just like humanity is complex, our largest issues are not solved with a single silver bullet. I believe the concept of a “safe community” begins from the inside out, it begins with individuals who have food security, housing security, and good physical and mental health, then it radiates outward with job security, affordable childcare, transportation, a strong economy, a healthy environment and community vibrance. A safe home environment is a hugely stabilizing factor for people, it’s at the center of creating a safe community. The “housing first” model of addressing homelessness is a good example of this.

 

7) Racial Disparities – In Greenville County, 7.5% percent of Black households are homeowners, compared to 56% percent of white households (The US average is 41.8% for black households and 71.9% for white households).  How will you reduce the racial homeownership gap and other disparities in housing for households of color?
The extent to which Greenville County is so far below the national average (which is not acceptable as is with a 30 point gap between white and black homeownership) is truly shameful. The only way to arrived at this statistical reality is through generations of systemic racism and racial bias. To counteract this, it will take more than just housing policy. I’ve outlined a path forward (document link here) to develop a more comprehensively equitable county environment, something that will be essential in righting our racial divides whether it relates to housing, health, economy or any other dimension of society. As a summary, my path forward involves 1) passing a resolution identifying racism as a public health crisis, 2) passing an anti-bias ordinance, 3) establishing three key structures of a Community Equity Council, a Citizen’s Oversight Board for the Sheriff’s Department and an Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within County Government and 4) developing a dashboard to monitor and track key metrics to the community. With respect to the latter our community should set county-wide goals related to housing security indicators by race, such as percent of home loans approved, home ownership and percentage of cost-burdened households.

 

8) Housing Challenges In Rural America – Although millions of rural families have trouble paying their rent or mortgage, rural housing issues are often overlooked. Moreover, resources used by rural communities have been cut significantly. How would you prioritize the housing needs of rural communities in Greenville County?
Having grown up in a very rural environment myself, I can empathize with the challenges and realities of rural living. The issues are harder to see because of the remote and somewhat hidden nature of living that rural areas provide. Here again this is about representatives getting out of their own box, their own district, to support advocacy and visibility for the vulnerable communities across our county, wherever they are. Dashboards that track the key indicators outlined in the comprehensive plan are helpful tools in both monitoring the true nature of our growth as well as supporting a balanced approach to allocating resources and guiding development across all districts.

 

9) Housing Stability – Rental assistance is proven to reduce homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding, but 75% of residents who qualify do not receive this limited resource. What will you do to expand access to housing stabilization to every household that needs it? And in light of the expiration of the federal moratorium on evictions would you support additional funding in cases of extreme hardship, public health emergencies, economic recessions, etc.?
In the near term, given our acute reality caused by the COVID pandemic, I would work closely with local community and nonprofit partners to determine an effective use of the remaining funds from the $91M CARES Act allocation in order to effectively mitigate our immediate housing instability. For the longer term, I would seek to implement multi-pronged policies (addressing the linked factors of childcare costs, utility costs and eviction protections) and identify funding sources (public and private) that would address instability in a more holistic way.

 

10) Funding – We cannot meet our growing, countywide housing needs without significant additional resources. Will you support a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing? Why or why not?
Yes, I will support a dedicated source of funding. The 2018 housing study indicated that Greenville County should invest $8M/year for the next 20 years to properly address the critical and looming needs of affordable housing in our community. In the upcoming two-year budgeting cycle, I will advocate for the prioritization of this investment.

District 24: Liz Seman

1. District Issues: How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?

The word I would use is variety.  Like many areas of Greenville County, the demographics of District 24 include everything from millennials to seniors.  The variety of demographics and income levels brings a need for a variety of housing options.  In addition, the district also needs a mix of units for rent and ownership options.  A great example of this variety is in the Verdae area – there are apartments (i.e. The Velo), townhomes (i.e. Chelsa Townes), single family homes (i.e. Ruskin Square) and senior living (i.e. Cascades).

The residents of District 24 also want affordability.  Part of the district falls within the boundaries of the City of Mauldin which has been nationally recognized by LendEDU as one of the most affordable cities for homebuyers. Finally, the residents of District 24 want accessibility – to work, school, shopping and amenities.

 

2. The Availability of Affordable Housing: Over 40% of homeowners and renters in the county are cost burdened, spending over 30% of their income on housing. And this percentage only includes those under 80% Area Median Income. The lack of supply—especially for those with the lowest incomes—has only made this problem worse. What would you do to encourage the production of more affordable homes for these families? And what would you do to support to local AH developers, including community organizations and private developers (e.g., incentives such as density/parking bonuses, reduced fees)?

A significant part of the problem is the cost to construct new homes.  Land costs, particularly in the urban areas, are very high.  In addition, government regulations have added to the cost of construction, construction labor is in short supply and building material prices have increased significantly.

In order to increase our affordable housing supply, we need to look carefully at zoning and other regulations.  We need to streamline our processes and eliminate rules that aren’t necessary.  We also need to critically assess any new rules for their impact on housing costs.  We also need to target areas that can benefit from new housing.  In my district, the city has placed a focus on Laurens Road, however Pleasantburg, just East ofLaurens Road, is an area that is prime for redevelopment.

We also need to consider innovative solutions like repurposing older hotels or vacant commercial and office buildings.

Even with these challenges, the county, through the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority, is doing amazing work in the area of affordable housing across the county through Community Development Block Grants, HOME and Affordable Housing Funds grants, as well as federal CARES Act funding.  The county has recently approved several affordable housing projects and has allocated $5M for affordable housing and has also allocated $5.4M CARES Act funding for rent and utility assistance.  Even with that investment, there is more work to be done and it will take significant funding and collaboration to solve this problem.  It will also require the use of various financing tools, leveraging local tax credits as well as state and federal tax credits, land banking and other incentives in order to encourage developers to produce affordable housing units.

It will also take education – on the part of elected officials, housing stakeholders and community members I have developed relationships with the Greenville Housing Fund, the Greenville Homeless Alliance, United Housing Connections, the Home Builders Association, the Greater Greenville Association of Realtors, and the Greenville Chamber to continue to understand the challenges and to find innovative, public-private solutions to our affordable housing crisis (i.e. repurposing hotel and motels for affordable housing, the UHC leasing program, UHF Homeowner Preservation Program).  I support their efforts and I will continue to seek their guidance on ways the county can use the Comprehensive Plan and land development regulations to implement a variety of housing options and remove regulatory barriers to ensure an adequate supply of quality housing units at all price points.

 

3. Workers: Housing Wage in Greenville required for a one-bedroom household is $14.67. The Housing Wage for a two-bedroom household is $17.27. If working 40 hours per week, $14.67 equates to $30,513. Almost 30,000 Greenville County households are estimated to have an income below that amount. What investments or policy would you champion to address the growing gap between what workers can afford and housing costs?

Since the General Assembly preempted cities and counties from exceeding the Federal Minimum Wage (S.C. Code Section 6-1-130), one of the best things we can do as a council to improve average wages is to continue to recruit companies to Greenville that offer high-wage jobs.

In 2019, the county announced capital investment of $401.8M and the creation of 2,178 new jobs.  This year, we have seen capital investment of $92.99M and 635 new jobs, with average wages between $18 – $46 per hour.  In addition, the county recently announced Fox Hill Business Park which will bring manufacturing and other jobs to the area. The Upstate SC Alliance “Move Up” platform hosts more than 7,000 job openings each month and at SCTAC, Lockheed Martin’s most recent F-16 contract will bring an additional 150-200 jobs to our community.  Through its investment in the NEXT Innovation Center, the county supports talent recruitment for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Greenville. Recognizing the relationship between education and employment, the county played a major role in supporting Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation and their new Center for Culinary and Hospitality Innovation, both critical to our ability to train workers and give them marketable skills that are needed in our community.

 

4: Revitalizing Distressed Communities: Many low-income neighborhoods often lack access to employment, good schools, thriving local businesses, transportation, healthy food, and healthcare. How would you support public and private investments in housing development, preservation, and community development as part of a long-term strategy to revitalize distressed communities?

 

One of the best things that County Council can do to help revitalize distressed communities is to support organizations such as the Greenville Housing Fund (GHF) and the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority (GCRA) who are already doing significant work in this area.  GHF’s Homeowner Preservation Program is an innovative solution that leverages the capacity of other housing partners to improve the quality of life for homeowners.  GCRA’s work to improve amenities such as the Mauldin Senior Center, provides vital physical, mental and social support for seniors, and their infrastructure project in the Sterling Community has provided safer access for school busses and improved the walkability of the neighborhood.

The other thing County Council can do is to address our transportation deficiencies.  Affordable housing and adequate transportation go hand-in-hand.  During my tenure on council, I have voted to increase funding for Greenlink from less than $500,000 to $2.5M per year.  However, more resources are needed to fully implement the Transit Development Plan to expand service in order to provide better access to jobs, schools, food and healthcare.

County Council can also help inform and aid developers in regards to Opportunity Zones.   There are several projects underway that will provide much-needed investment in areas such as The Poinsett Corridor. The county may also need to consider incentives to retailers and other service providers in the same way we provide incentives to businesses that want to relocate to Greenville County.

 

5: Seniors and children: More than half of senior renters and more than 1 in 4 senior homeowners pay more than they can afford for housing. Meanwhile, children without stable, affordable housing have lower educational and health outcomes. What will you do to ensure housing policy and resources support Greenville County’s seniors and students?

Transportation is part of solving this problem, as is access to healthy food and health care.  We need to work with the legislature to reduce expenses, like property taxes, for seniors who own their home.  We also need to get creative and slow gentrification by allowing property owners to add an accessory dwelling unit on their property. Property owners can then rent the unit for additional income or move into the smaller unit and rent their primary dwelling.

We also need to leverage our nonprofit sector.  Greenville is fortunate to have organizations such as Meals on Wheels of Greenville and Senior Action who are focused on the health and wellbeing of our senior citizens.  The county has supported both organizations through the CARES Act funds, ensuring that no senior will go hungry.  Thankfully, many housing organizations are also focused on senior living.  We need more collaborative projects like the Renaissance Place Senior Apartments in Mauldin to provide additional units for seniors.  We also need additional support for home repair services like those provided by GCRA and Rebuild Upstate.

For our youngest citizens, the county should support organizations such as Community Works, that help families attain stability in housing. How can we support programs like OnTrack Greenville, to ensure student success to break the cycle of poverty?  Especially during this time of pandemic, I will continue to advocate for additional resources for rent and utility assistance, as well as childcare, to ensure that families can stay in their homes.

 

6. Housing Intersections: Having an accessible, affordable place to call home is critical to improving education, health, and economic outcomes. What housing-based strategy would you use to address the education, health, transportation, and economic needs of low-income families?

Collaboration is the key to improving education, health and economic outcomes.  While County Council has no jurisdiction over Greenville County Schools, I have developed relationships with school board members to seek areas of collaboration.  For example, the county has invested $248K in CARES Act funding to ensure adequate WiFi is available in more than 50 sites throughout the county so students can participate in virtual learning.  The county also invested $2M via First Steps of Greenville for families and childcare providers to bridge the gap for working families between in-person and virtual learning days.

The county has had a long-standing relationship with both Prisma Health and Bon Secours St. Francis as both hospitals support Greenville County EMS.  In addition, the county has allocated additional budget dollars to support new medical technical positions and paramedic positions which will provide improved health services throughout the county.  Through CARES Act funding the county has provided $3M to Bon Secours St. Francis, $28K to the Greenville Free Medical Clinic, $229K for Prisma Health’s PASO Program, $417K to the Blood Connection and $80K to Unity Health on Main.

The county has also supported the economic needs of low-income families by allocating $5.4M of Cares Act support for rent and utility assistance which will be dispersed in partnership with the United Way and Greenville County Redevelopment Authority.

Post-pandemic, we should look for additional opportunities for creative partnerships that will continue to address the needs of low-income families.

 

7. Racial Disparities: In Greenville County, 7.5% percent of Black households are homeowners, compared to 56% percent of white households (The US average is 41.8% for black households and 71.9% for white households). How will you reduce the racial homeownership gap and other disparities in housing for households of color?

Greenville has become one of the most desirable places to live and we continue to make “Top 10” lists almost weekly.  However, all of our citizens don’t enjoy the same quality of life. As elected officials and affordable housing stakeholders, we need to better understand the concept of economic mobility and we also need to address the shortage of affordable housing for those who, regardless of race, are housing-cost burdened.  Education, employment and access to healthcare are also considerations when addressing homeownership and other housing disparities.  We must support all pillars if we are going to have a strong community.  I would also like to say that if there are currently any county ordinances on the books that in any way restricts home ownership for minorities, they should be immediately eliminated.  The review of our ordinances for barriers will help with that effort.

 

8. Housing Challenges in Rural America: Although millions of rural families have trouble paying their rent or mortgage, rural housing issues are often overlooked. Moreover, resources used by rural communities have been cut significantly. How would you prioritize the housing needs of rural communities in Greenville County?

The latest Greenville County Comprehensive Plan defines several character types for the rural areas of the county: rural, rural living, rural corridor, and rural village – all with varying degrees of density.  And while the northern and southern parts of the county have the most open space and the biggest areas of rural living, they also have the least infrastructure resources (transportation, water, sewer, roads, sidewalks).  The best way for the county to support housing challenges in our rural areas is to invest in the infrastructure needed to support the current families living in these areas and those who want to move to those areas.  In addition, effective use of zoning and land development regulations will ensure that property owners and developers will have a clear set of guidelines to follow when developing residential or commercial properties.  Another boost for southern Greenville County is the addition of the Fox Hill Business Park – a state-of-the-art Class A business park that will bring additional investment and jobs to the region.  County Council needs to keep an open line of communication with the citizens in the rural areas of the county to ensure that we understand their needs and their vision for the future of the place they call home.

 

9. Housing Stability: Rental assistance is proven to reduce homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding, but 75% of residents who qualify do not receive this limited resource. What will you do to expand access to housing stabilization to every household that needs it? And in light of the expiration of the federal moratorium on evictions would you support additional funding in cases of extreme hardship, public health emergencies, economic recessions, etc.?

In the current pandemic climate, I absolutely support additional funding for rent and utility assistance.  The county has allocated $3.5M for rent and utility assistance and the county are actively working with the United Way (2-1-1) and the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority to ensure that these immediate needs are met.  The county has also allocated $7.5M for small businesses in order to help them reopen safely and keep people employed.  Moving forward, the county can continue to address housing stability through our Human Relations Commission and GCRA and we will look for opportunities to partner with organizations such as the SHARE, the Greenville Housing Fund, the Greenville Homeless Alliance, United Housing Connections, Community Works and others, who have expertise in this area.

10. Funding: We cannot meet our growing, countywide housing needs without significant additional resources. Will you support a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing? Why or why not?

It will take public (federal, state, county and municipal) and private philanthropic investment to meet our escalating housing needs and I look forward to working with the Greenville Affordable Housing Coalition to implement the 2020-2030 strategic plan.  Public and private funding will be needed to address housing preservation and production as well as land acquisition and organizational capacity building.  The biennium budget approved by council every two years reflects the priorities of the community.  Affordable housing is clearly a priority.  Funds could be allocated to leverage private dollars or state and federal dollars, and for infrastructure improvements (i.e. roads, sidewalks) to support affordable housing development.  The county also needs to work with developers to take advantage of opportunity zones and other affordable housing incentives.  An example of a new opportunity is the update and renewal of the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit and legislation passed this session by the S.C. General Assembly that will incentivize for-profit developers to develop new projects in the 30%-60% Area Median Income space.  In addition, I will continue to advocate for allocating resources for public works, parks and recreation, transportation and public safety – all important to affordable housing and the quality of life for all of our citizens.

District 24: Amanda McDougald Scott

Affordable Housing Coalition Candidate Questionnaire

 

1. District Issues: How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?

When it comes to housing, Greenville is a victim of its own success.  Many people benefit from the growth, but we are leaving others behind.  Rapid growth has resulted in limited housing inventory and escalating prices.  Some neighborhoods are rapidly gentrifying and pushing many out of communities they have called home for decades–or their whole lives. There are few alternatives where those individuals can find more affordable alternatives.  Housing inventory is tight even for those in middle income jobs, pushing them into housing that typically would be reserved for those with lower incomes.  Rapid development in unzoned areas of the county is increasing our sprawl and creating a costly burden on the county’s infrastructure.

Housing needs greatly depend upon the area in which someone lives, and is not a situation unique to District 24.  Large portions of District 24 are either in the City of Greenville or Mauldin, and there are many discrepancies in housing between the two cities; however, one commonality that I have found is that many may erroneously think that living in Mauldin is less expensive.

I have visited the wealthiest areas of our County, as well as subsidized housing areas.One Mauldin apartment complex, which used to be subsidized housing, is no longer at a price point that people with low incomes can afford.  I talked with several residents in this housing complex who informed me that their apartments were full of mold, infested with roaches, and the management and owners were not interested in doing anything about this issue; however the price the residents were paying was $865 a month in rent–a price they expect to increase within the year.  One of the residents paying this was on a fixed income of $1,100 a month, and had health issues which were exacerbated by the hazardous living conditions.  With these prices, it is not surprising that she was not able to keep her phone on or afford transportation–which was very far from her apartment.

Greenville County needs not only to stop sprawl, but to make sure that housing prices are kept at a level that serves the needs of all residents.  The workforce needs housing that is attainable without spending over 30% of their income, and that also is close to their jobs.

 

2. The Availability of Affordable Housing: Over 40% of homeowners and renters in the county are cost burdened, spending over 30% of their income on housing. And this percentage only includes those under 80% Area Median Income. The lack of supply—especially for those with the lowest incomes—has only made this problem worse. What would you do to encourage the production of more affordable homes for these families? And what would you do to support local AH developers, including community organizations and private developers (e.g., incentives such as density/parking bonuses, reduced fees)?

Developers should be encouraged to take advantage of the new SC State tax incentives (signed by the Governor on 9/28/20) that support rehabilitation of existing homes, as well as construction of new homes. All municipalities should participate in the Greenville Housing Fund (GHF).  GHF provides rental assistance to low-income individuals, boosts owner-occupied rehabilitation of housing, acquires land to be used for mixed-income housing, and advocates for mixed-income housing on parcels of land that are currently owned. Finally, we must implement the County Comprehensive Plan regarding density, housing, and growth.

 

3. Workers: Housing Wage in Greenville required for a one-bedroom household is $14.67. The Housing Wage for a two-bedroom household is $17.27. If working 40 hours per week, $14.67 equates to $30,513. Almost 30,000 Greenville County households are estimated to have an income below that amount. What investments or policy would you champion to address the growing gap between what workers can afford and housing costs?

I would champion the actions of the Greenville Housing Fund in providing rental assistance to low-income individuals, boosting owner-occupied rehabilitation of housing, acquiring land to be used for mixed-income housing, and advocating for mixed-income housing on parcels of land that are currently owned.  I would work with the Greenville Housing Fund and encourage all municipalities in Greenville County to join its efforts.

I would also structure housing development and building incentives and spending so that people can live closer to their jobs, affordably.  We must consider density in order to both improve affordable housing and decrease sprawl, which also benefits the environment.

Work on affordable housing is a basic and necessary step to improving the quality of life for Greenville County, as well as the possibility of economic mobility;  however, low wages, incomes based on tips, and unpredictable/temporary work are also components of being able to afford housing. People need to be able to make a living wage, and housing that is affordable and liveable, within 30% or less of their wages needs to be available.

 

4. Revitalizing Distressed Communities: Many low-income neighborhoods often lack access to employment, good schools, thriving local businesses, transportation, healthy food, and healthcare. How would you support public and private investments in housing development, preservation, and community development as part of a long-term strategy to revitalize distressed communities?

Housing is an issue that affects the lives of people beyond having a roof over their heads. The 2020 Greenville County Comprehensive Plan thoroughly covers many of these areas, and it is my objective to implement the Plan.  County Council has the reputation of paying for and inviting stakeholders to the table to write Comprehensive plans, but never implementing them.  It’s time to take the initiative, summon the courage, and do the hard work to implement the plan–which I will do.

We must encourage developers to make use of the new SC State tax incentives (signed by the Governor on 9/28/20) that support rehabilitation of existing homes, as well as construction of new homes.  Further, we should

  • increase housing options located near Greenlink routes by 850 units in critical areas.
  • increase revenue for financing – could be opportunity for public and private partnership.
  • provide appropriate solutions for moving people off the streets, out of the emergency shelters, and into short and long-term housing solutions.
  • examine County zoning laws- especially the addition of inclusionary zoning.

Transportation is an important piece of community development.  We must fund Greenlink fully as a first step towards improving overall transportation needs in Greenville.  We also need to pursue creative solutions that offer transportation solutions for those who are outside of urban areas and help connect them to our good jobs, many of them which require transportation support for shift work, every day of the week at all hours, and on holidays. We need to be able to test and pilot various innovative transportation solutions that go beyond just extending the bus (which is still important).

Health, child care, and the environment are also important pieces of infrastructure that can help revitalize distressed communities.  Briefly:

  • The air, water, and soil surrounding housing must be clean so that the health of residents is not negatively impacted.
  • Racism is a public health problem, and taking steps to address racial injustice will help revitalize communities and improve health in minority groups.
  • People must have quality, affordable, and accessible child care if they are going to be able to get to work.  This is a solution that can only come from the collaborative efforts of private and public sectors–government leadership can help.
  • Food access is another important factor in health, and there must be incentives to provide healthier food for all people in every community.

 

5. Seniors and children: More than half of senior renters and more than 1 in 4 senior homeowners pay more than they can afford for housing. Meanwhile, children without stable, affordable housing have lower educational and health outcomes. What will you do to ensure housing policy and resources support Greenville County’s seniors and students?

Policies should be implemented in a way that helps all homeowners and those at risk for homelessness.  If policies are implemented in the ways previously discussed, this should support seniors and children.  Making sure adults are cared for through housing policy will support children.

Greenville has a wealth of knowledge in its affordable housing experts at GHF, the Greenville Homeless Alliance, the Greenville Housing Authority, and more.  As your County Councilwoman, I will continue to work with experts in their fields to ensure that we are exploring and applying the best solutions to the housing resources facing Greenville County’s most vulnerable residents.

 

6. Housing Intersections: Having an accessible, affordable place to call home is critical to improving education, health, and economic outcomes. What housing-based strategy would you use to address the education, health, transportation, and economic needs of low-income families?

Housing First is a program that states that housing, a basic need of survival, should be addressed before other areas of concern to help a person get back on his or her feet.   Housing insecurity can cause lapses in education, health, and job security.  Transportation is also a crucial piece needed for adequate housing.  If someone cannot pay for housing, it is difficult to afford transportation to and from a job and to acquire other life necessities.

As your County Councilwoman, I will also prioritize looking to other areas for solutions that are working to address some of the same issues facing us here in Greenville County.  For example, I know that helping children requires multi-generational solutions–and ones that are mindful of support and work with all types of families.  An example of a program doing this is Family Scholar House in Kentucky; this organization combines education, case management and housing for single parents with children offers a powerful hand up and a multi-generation solution. This is an example of the kinds of solutions we could consider to target some of the issues we face.

 

7. Racial Disparities: In Greenville County, 7.5% percent of Black households are homeowners, compared to 56% percent of white households (The US average is 41.8% for black households and 71.9% for white households). How will you reduce the racial homeownership gap and other disparities in housing for households of color?

Income disparities are currently exacerbated along racial lines in the Greenville Metro area.  While our population remains largely white, we are seeing faster growth in communities of color. This will be a factor for us if we are not able to address disparities and face our issues squarely.

The Anti-bias Ordinance should be enacted, which would mean that discrimination in housing in Greenville County would be illegal.  We should also enforce the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in public and private housing transactions.

 

8. Housing Challenges In Rural America: Although millions of rural families have trouble paying their rent or mortgage, rural housing issues are often overlooked. Moreover, resources used by rural communities have been cut significantly. How would you prioritize the housing needs of rural communities in Greenville County?

The average per capita income for South Carolina residents in 2018 was $43,702, and the rural per capita income was $35,819 (USDA Economic Research Service, 2019); furthermore, the unemployment rate in rural South Carolina was 3.6%, versus 2.7% in urban areas (USDA-ERS, 2019). This is a perfect example of income segregation in Greenville County, This is a risk not just for housing but for the longer term economic mobility of the community.  Rural housing prices are generally more affordable, but the low prices of rural homes can indicate lower investment rates, and may be more expensive to keep up from a profitability standpoint.  Our rural communities should be included in plans for affordable housing. The South Carolina Housing County First Initiative aims to offer additional incentives for home ownership in rural areas, to help close the housing gap (https://www.schousing.com/Home/County-First-Initiative).

 

9. Housing Stability: Rental assistance is proven to reduce homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding, but 75% of residents who qualify do not receive this limited resource. What will you do to expand access to housing stabilization to every household that needs it? And in light of the expiration of the federal moratorium on evictions would you support additional funding in cases of extreme hardship, public health emergencies, economic recessions, etc.?

Working with the Greenville Housing Fund to provide resources to help people pay for housing will help add stabilization.  However, the moratorium on evictions should be enacted and implemented–as well as support for landlords who may be reliant on the income from renters to make ends meet themselves.  Moratoriums on evictions can result in small apartment landlords leaving the business because it becomes unmanageable to them. This can have a negative effect and result in reducing the available affordable housing. We are in a crisis now, but we need longer-term solutions that work for both the renter and the landlord.  Additional funding in cases of extreme hardship should be available for residents of Greenville County.

We should also be willing to report our county’s evictions to the national evictions database and look at some of the policies we have that make it too easy to evict people. Evicting for non-payment or criminal activity is one thing, but that is not always what is happening. Evictions have a lasting effect, following renters as part of their rental/credit history and making it difficult for them to find suitable housing in the future. People who have been evicted also risk loss of possessions as they are not able to move, keep or secure their belongings during a period of transition.

10. Funding: We cannot meet our growing, countywide housing needs without significant additional resources. Will you support a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing? Why or why not?

Yes. The recommendation from CZB LLC stated that we need $8 million a year for the next 20 years to catch up on identified housing deficits (9500 units stated needed).  Housing experts have indicated that this is insufficient. We will work with local experts and 2020 Census numbers to check the results of the CZB study, as well as follow the recommendations of the Report on Homelessness in Greenville County from 2019 and the 2020-2024 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice.  Then, we will have a good idea of what is needed for supporting the most basic human need and social determinant of health.  Housing is a right.

District 25: Ennis Fant

Did not respond.

District 25: Ben Carper

Did not respond.

District 27: Butch Kirven

Did not respond.

District 27: Will Morin

Did not respond.