July 10, 2018. Charleston City Paper.

After more than a thousand people showed up to the Charleston Area Justice Ministry’s annual gathering on April 30, the social justice organization will hold the first meeting as it sets out with the goal of establishing a regional housing trust fund on Tues. July 10.

Starting at 3 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (134 St Philip St.), the meeting is one of the first steps the group is taking to help mitigate the difficulties posed by of skyrocketing rent prices throughout the Lowcountry. It will help check off three of the nine goals the 27-member advocacy group set for itself back in April: developing a coalition with members from various regional governments, convening the coalition within 75 days, and meeting with Michael Anderson.

Anderson, who serves as the director of the housing trust fund project at the Center for Community Change, will deliver a presentation on the benefits of establishing a regional housing trust fund.

Members of the community, nonprofits, businesses, and elected officials are invited to attend.

The City of Charleston formed the Palmetto Community Land Trust in 2017 through the nonprofit Charleston Redevelopment Corporation, a partnership between the city and the Historic Charleston Foundation. The goal of the land trust is to acquire, develop and manage affordable housing for a period of 99 years.

Many Charleston residents and affordable housing advocates have long lamented the availability of affordable housing in the region.

CAJM’s research has found that 211,000 people spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing in the Charleston area, above what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends spending on housing costs.

Additionally, a quarter of Charleston-area renters, or about 21,800 households, spend more than half their income on rent, according to a study by Harvard University’s Joint Center of Housing Studies.

The median gross rent in Charleston County is about $992, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which also found that North Charleston was the highest eviction market in the country earlier this year.

In 2015, more than 770 city, county and state housing trust funds throughout the United States provided more than $1 billion to support affordable homes, according to the Center for Community Change.

On April 30, Charleston City Councilmembers Carol Jackson, James Lewis, William Dudley Gregorie, and Keith Waring; Charleston County Council chair Vic Rawl; North Charleston City Council member Mike Brown, Jr.; and Mt. Pleasant Town Councilmember Guang Whitley all agreed to help secure funding for a regional housing trust fund within their respective governments.

Jackson, Gregorie, and Whitley will attend Tuesday’s meeting, along with North Charleston Councilmember Virginia Jamison along with staff from the City of North Charleston and Charleston County.

“A regional housing trust fund that has ongoing funding is a necessary tool in addressing the lack of affordable housing that is crippling families and businesses across the region,” said CAJM co-president Arthur McFarland in a statement.

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