By Royale Bonds, Greenville News

Over 1,500 people gathered at First Baptist Church Tuesday night, March 21, at Greenville Organized for Accountable Leadership’s (GOAL) Nehemiah Action where Greenville officials promised to work toward $20 million total for affordable housing from the county and city.

GOAL asked for $10 million from the city and $10 million from the county, with one-third going to those who make 30 percent of the area median income or about $27,000 for a family of four.

The commitment comes as pressure mounts on local officials to deliver more for affordable housing as the area continues to lose Black residents.

GOAL addresses two of the biggest issues in Greenville

GOAL is an interfaith organization made up of over 20 congregations across Greenville County. As previously reported by the Greenville News, the organization held it’s Justice Ministry Rally Thursday, March 9 to prepare for the Nehemiah Action.

As previously reported, according to GOAL, there is a shortage of at least 11,000 homes for families making less than $27,000 a year in Greenville County.

The group also wants to target mental health issues.

Over 46,000 people in South Carolina contacted the 988 mental health emergency line in 2022. Of those 127 calls a day, only 55 people received a response from someone in the state. Everyday, 72 people reach out to the emergency line with no response. Of those unanswered calls, 24 per day are under the age of 24 according to GOAL.

At the Justice rally, GOAL asked Greenville City Council and Greenville County Council to commit $20 million every year of local funding to affordable housing.

GOAL is also seeking funding for the 988 mental health emergency line. The organization would like for the emergency line to receive $3.9 million in the 2023-2024 State budget.

Greenville officials agree to work toward goals

During the Nehemiah Action, GOAL publicly asked elected officials in Greenville two questions:

“Will you work to create new revenue streams to accomplish a goal of $10 million annually to the Greenville Housing Fund?” and “Will you work to ensure that 1/3 of the City dollars for affordable housing goes toward at that 30 percent of the area median income?”

Mayor Knox White, City Council members Dorothy Dowe, Russell Stall, Ken Gibson and John DeWorken, along with County council members Liz Semen, Alan Mitchell and Ennis Fant, all answered “yes” to both questions.

“We know to take on an issue like this you have to think big. You have to think boldly. And we have a tradition in Greenville of doing just that and have had for many years. That’s why I will be optimistic about this because Greenville does things that other communities don’t know how to do. We do it here,” White said.

Councilwoman Dowe said, “One of the revenue streams we have in the city of Greenville and the county is our tourism tax revenue. Right now, this is currently restricted to be used only for tourism related projects. Many of you in here heard from me and others in the past two weeks, heard my call for action to please support and contact your legislators to support Senate Bill S284.”

According to the South Carolina Policy Council website, “This bill would allow local accommodations and hospitality tax revenue to be spent on the development of workforce housing. Such revenue is currently restricted to things more closely associated with tourism, such as improving beach access or paying for tourism-related advertisements.”

“I do feel like there is plenty more that revenue stream could do to provide housing for the very workforce that creates the tourism engine,” Dowe said.

When asked if he would work to ensure one-third of the City dollars for affordable housing goes to those that earn less than 30 percent of the area’s median income, Gibson said, “No, because I will work for more than that.”

GOAL encouraged everyone to reach out to State Representative Bruce Bannister to ensure $3.9 million in funding for the 988 mental health emergency line is included in the statehouse budget.

Councilwoman Liz Seman told the audience, “While I was sitting here, I texted Representative (Bruce) Bannister and he says don’t call. He’s supportive of the money for 988.”

View the original story here.