Our company, LS Group, are developers and builders in town, latterly in mainly the East Side and Elliottborough. I recently attended a conference organized by Historic Charleston and focused on affordable housing. Nothing I heard gave me a positive feeling and general consensus was that it’s “awfully difficult”. This is not the case in part for the reasons explained below and it would help greatly if our leaders changed their mindset.
Charleston City code mandates an affordable element in planning applications. That element is typically 15% and limited to 10 years duration i.e. it’s transient. Many other jurisdictions in this country allow for mitigation or offset instead meaning that the developer pays to have an alternative affordable element created nearby as defined buy the city’s needs. Building affordable housing in high rise condominiums is both expensive and sub-optimum for a population needing neighborhoods, community interaction, space and self determination. Building elsewhere will produce more product at a much faster pace than is currently achieved by City code.
In our circle of contacts is a group of concerned developers similar to ourselves and willing to create beautiful mixed use neighborhoods with a strong, large, permanent affordable element. We have the support of neighborhood committees and local churches and the City of N Charleston. We already own land for hundreds of such homes within a 5 minute drive or 15 minute cycle of Calhoun St downtown. Help us, help our City by helping bring mitigation on to the debating table producing the economic driver to build out this opportunity, we can and will do the rest.
Respectfully yours, Chris Leigh-Jones