Greenville Housing Fund works to preserve affordable housing, fight gentrification

Local News

GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) –The Greenville Housing Fund said there are some new homes being built in the Nicholtown area, that are in the half a million dollar range, but work is being done to fight against gentrification.

“The one thing I do know about Nicholtown is, there are a couple new homes being constructed over there right now and those homes might be next door to more affordable housing, but the new home construction that is being done over in Nicholtown is in the half million dollar range,” said Bryan Brown, CEO of the Greenville Housing Fund.

“So when we can redevelop other parcels and preserve affordable housing, I think we are achieving some balance against the increasing gentrification pressures that all of these neighborhoods, particularly the ones that are adjacent to downtown Greenville like Nicholtown are experiencing in our city,” Brown said.

Construction and new homes can be seen in Nicholtown and in other parts of the city.

“One of my major concerns is looking at the AMI percentages, they’re getting higher to meet the affordable criteria, where as a lot of the workforce people, whose income is way less than $50,000, those are the people who really need the affordable housing and there’s very little of that,” said Sylvia Palmer, a Nicholtown resident. “And then the prices of the homes in our neighborhood, we are an African American neighborhood whose median income is low. It’s a special emphasis neighborhood and now prices are so high, that people who grew up in Nicholtown can’t afford to come back and buy a home,” Palmer said. “because the average home in Nicholtown is selling for over $280,000,” she claims.

“So there are a lot of efforts particularly, the city refers to them as special emphasis neighborhoods. These are neighborhoods that have historically been minority neighborhoods, and in the housing market we have today, there are a lot of opportunistic private developments because of the desirability to be close to downtown, so we’re seeing a lot of gentrification pressures in these same special emphasis neighborhoods,” Brown said.

Recently the city donated two parcels of surplus land to non-profit affordable housing development partners.

“So at Cowan Court, they are building a duplex, and that’s United Housing Connection, and those will be two rental units and those apartments will rent for $700 a month,” Brown said.

The City also donated property to Genesis Homes for a one rental unit on Hollywood Circle another part of town.

“The important thing about these kind of developments are, these are the kind of developments that help us balance against gentrification,” Brown said.

Brown said they want to preserve affordable housing options for lower income families as neighborhoods see explosive growth.

“So any efforts to redevelop vacant parcels of land, and put housing that will be affordable long-term, is certainly one of the antidotes we have against gentrification,” Brown said.

City leaders said more affordable housing projects are also in the works all over the City.

“In Nicholtown two very large affordable housing projects that are in the pipeline coming along, we expect to see in 2022,” said Mayor Knox White. “It’s not unusual for city council to be addressing affordable housing. We do it really two ways, one is direct appropriation and raising private money as well to be matched,” White said. “And secondly, with a lot of land donations. Most of what we’re doing in the Unity Park Area, around the Reedy River is donations of city land, that’s going to make possible around nine different parcels of affordable housing projects.”

“We have 147 of affordable senior housing down by Unity Park on West Washington Street,” Brown said. “We have another 48 units near Unity Park, that’ll be more sort of market-oriented workforce housing which will be privately financed,” Brown said. “We do have a larger project, it’s been on the city council agenda because it got rezoned, it’s at Laurens and Ackley Road, right at the entrance to Nicoltown right off of Laurens Road and that will be about 112 units of affordable housing,” he said.

“Our job is to acquire land where possible and to create foot holes in affordable housing, even no matter what’s happening around the area. I think that’s probably the best and really the only effective strategy you can have, is when we own the land, we can do what we think needs to be done, and that’s that we’ll have a neighborhood at the end of the day that’s a mixed-income neighborhood and that’s really not a bad thing,” Mayor White said.

Brown said right now, they are working on more than 600 units of affordable housing in the city, and they are under active developments

Palmer said she’s hopeful for the future.

“It’s a step in the right direction, because I’ve been involved with looking at affordable housing now for probably about 15 years and I currently serve on the Genesis Homes board, which is another organization that provides affordable rental homes, and that’s just one of my things, that I’d like to see more of that,” Palmer said. “And as the partners come on board, I hope that they have the heart to continue to do that, instead of putting everything out of the financial reach of all people,” Palmer added.

The Greenville Housing Fund is a private non-profit and receives support from the city and works closely with the County, as well. Brown said they are always looking for partners and more donors to join them in bringing more affordable housing to the City.

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