Georgetown County shows ‘incredible’ housing shortage

 Georgetown County shows ‘incredible’ housing shortage

Georgetown County is facing a lack of affordable housing, but there also aren’t enough units for its residents regardless of price, new figures from a research group show.

An estimated 670 rental units and 2,203 for-sale units are needed in Georgetown County, according to a report from Bowen National Research presented to members of local government, developers and realtors in the area.

Nearly 50% of renters in Georgetown County are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing and utilities. Public sector and service employees can only afford rent of $994 per month on average, and can only buy a home at $125,000.

In Georgetown County, it’s hard to find a place to live

Across Georgetown County, the options are slim.

“There is very little available at that rental rate,” Bowen said. “There is virtually nothing available for sale under [125,000] for those folks that provide a lot of jobs including, you know, police officers and your restaurant workers or retail workers or hotel workers.”

The county has grown in recent years, bringing in 11.8% percent more people in the last decade, according to the report. While some residents are wary of growth and development, Bowen said the economic benefits of building more housing could follow.

As it stands, employers contacted by Bowen National Research expressed difficulty in retaining their employees, Bowen said. And when new employers are looking to relocate, housing is often a factor that can make or break the decision.

“They have a lot they’re gonna look at, but housing will be a piece,” Bowen said. “I guarantee you, they’re gonna look and go, ‘Well, there’s no housing for my employees, they bring 100 manufacturing jobs into this area, where are they going to live?’”

Leaders identified a housing crisis. What comes next?

The report was meant to identify needs, not necessarily offer solutions, but local leaders will analyze the report’s findings and decide where to go from there. The first instinct might be simply to suggest building more affordable housing, but it’s more complicated than that, Bowen said. When developers build new units, they need to charge roughly $1,100 per month in rent or sell a home at about $300,000 to offset building costs, the report concluded.

The affordable housing crisis is a national issue, Bowen pointed out several times, and Georgetown County’s obstacles aren’t necessarily unique. But there are a few different options local leaders could consider to start chipping away at the problem, he said, including altering zoning laws, incentivizing developers and workforce housing programs similar to the one announced in Myrtle Beach last year. For now, the next step depends on what local leaders and the community see as the best way forward, Bowen said.

Under current trends, more than half of employees in Georgetown County live elsewhere, and more than 2,300 workers live in Horry County and commute to work.

The report split the county into five sectors based on census tract data, with the city of Georgetown in the central region, where more than half of renters are cost-burdened. City of Georgetown Mayor Brendan Barber asked attendees at Thursday’s meeting to envision the potential future of the city if more housing was available.

“Imagine lots of 5,000 square feet where you can build on and build up instead of out,” he said. “We desperately need not only single family homes, but multi-family homes, because our teachers, our entry force workers, they don’t need to go to Horry County to find a place to live.”

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Mary Norkol covers housing and homelessness for The Sun News through Report for America, an initiative which bolsters local news coverage. She joined The Sun News in June 2020 after graduating from Loyola University Chicago. She was editor-in-chief of the Loyola Phoenix, leading the paper to first place in its general excellence category from the Illinois College Press Association. Norkol won awards in podcasting, multimedia reporting, in-depth reporting and feature reporting from the ICPA. While in college, she reported breaking news for the Daily Herald and interned at the Chicago Sun-Times and CBS Chicago.

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