By Anna Harris, WCSC

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – A social justice group is asking the county to step up when it comes to more affordable housing in the Charleston area.

The Charleston Area Justice Ministry’s motto is “Do right… Right now.” The group held a press conference Tuesday in response to a memo sent out from the former director of the housing and neighborhood revitalization department. This memo addressed allegations of racially implicit bias and even ongoing tension between the council and their organization. Charleston Area Justice Ministry said they’ve had enough.

The county’s plan “Charleston County Housing Our Future” prioritizes housing equity, stability and security. It is currently in the works, but some say it needs to be put into action now.

“We are calling on the Charleston County Council to do right,” Claudette Hart, co-chair of the housing committee for the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, said.

The social justice organization said they’ve been fighting for more affordable housing with county council for several years.

The former director of the county’s housing and neighborhood revitalization department Darrell Davis said he was told Charleston Area Justice Ministry was a hostile group and to avoid working with them.

“While CAJM’s tactics are intentionally designed to be assertive, it would be a mistake to dismiss them as a hostile group of advocates… CAJM stood in support of the department’s efforts and was willing to negotiate and compromise on solutions to affordable housing,” Davis said.

“One person, or even a handful of people, should not be able to hinder the progress toward progressing housing that we desperately need,” Hart said.

Pastor and Charleston Area Justice Ministry member Charles Heyward Sr. said he hasn’t experienced this issue himself but hears about it from his peers constantly.

“I’m in conversation most often, not just in the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, but what informs me is ministry and people need housing,” Heyward said. “And it’s a critical issue.”

Following the press conference, Charleston County held an informational session about the Housing Our Future Plan. Heyward said this is happening too late and county council needs to focus on Davis’s concerns.

“For them to push back and placate it, I would encourage them not to do that, but be the professionals that they are and look into each one of those items and address them in a responsible way and a very transparent way,” Heyward said.

Charleston County sent this response to today’s press conference:

The County welcomes all public input on this plan. The Housing our Future plan is Charleston County’s first comprehensive plan for housing attainability. The plan includes months of research, analysis, and community conversations focused on capacity building, housing creation and preservation, housing stability, and homeownership. It also provides a clear understanding of the needs and challenges facing Charleston County. The plan provides a set of policies, programs, and capacity-building measures designed to help meet housing needs for years to come.

“The timeline needs to not be two years from now,” Heyward said. “It needs to be now. To do right. Right now.”

It is unclear at this point when the county council will vote on this plan. No county councilmembers responded for a comment.

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