BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — The Regional Housing Trust Fund is now a reality.

Eight cities and towns: Hardeeville, Hilton Head, Bluffton, Beaufort, Port Royal, Yemassee, Jasper County, and Beaufort County have signed on to put in $10 million in the next ten years toward finding and building affordable and workforce housing across the area.

“Some daylight at the end of the tunnel. I think in a year or so you will see some things moving,” said Beaufort County Manager Eric Greenway.

“I commend the work of the SoLoCo committee in recognizing that the affordable housing issue knows no boundary and am looking forward to regional cooperation on affordable housing,” said Mayor Colin Moore, Town of Yemassee.

The project targets the more than 35,000 people who work in the food and beverage industry, retail, nurses, teachers, office staff, and more who would qualify.

“I see it all the time, county employees, they come and accept jobs and then they look for housing and say I can’t afford to live here I can’t come,” Greenway detailed.

“We aren’t talking government subsidized housing here,” Greenway explained. “We are talking about people who do essential jobs in our community that provide the quality of life that we all enjoy.”

“This is a big step for us as a region,” said Beaufort Mayor Stephen Murray. “The lack of affordable housing for our residents and our workforce is something we all face. By committing to the Regional Trust Fund together, we can start to address this crucial issue in a collaborative and meaningful way. I’m proud of the work the City of Beaufort has done on this issue but excited to work together as a region.”

Jasper and Beaufort County joining together in a 10-year plan to make it easier for the people who work here to stay here and spend here.

“Providing affordable housing for our workforce is and always will be a regional issue, whether you are working on Hilton Head Island or in communities on the mainland,” said Hilton Head Mayor John McCann. “Our Town has been discussing housing needs for several years now. Being a part of a cooperative effort with other municipalities will help us get closer to solutions for this critical issue.”

“You are stronger together than by yourself. everyone putting their money in one big pot allows us to have a bigger pot of money to pull from,” Greenway said.

There is already $3.1 million in the bank that can be used toward finding and building property that would fit people who earn about 60% of the area’s median income. Studies show that could be close to 30,000 people.

“The cooperation and combining all the pieces of infrastructure that are out there for affordable housing into a more comprehensive package so instead of creating dozens of affordable housing units a year we can create hundreds of affordable housing units a year and that’s what it is going to take to close this gap,” Greenway said.

“The regional housing issue affects the quality of life, workforce, and diversity of our communities,” Bluffton’s Town Manager Stephen Steese said. “The Regional Housing Trust Fund is a solid step forward and it is important our local leaders do what we can, where we are, with what we have to tackle the deficit of affordable housing. This partnership allows all participating local governments to combine our resources to make a greater impact.”

“The Regional Housing Trust Fund is a historic collaboration of eight governmental jurisdictions to provide the region with another weapon in the battle for attainable housing. The housing shortage affects our economy, our need for first responders, nurses, teachers, and every area of service,” said Mayor Harry Williams, City of Hardeeville. “Like our roads, our environment, and our waterways, this need for housing knows no jurisdictional boundary. This Fund is a credit to the eight Councils and Staff who put the welfare of their residents above partisan politics. The City of Hardeeville is proud to be a partner with our neighbors in this effort.”

The goals of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund are to:

  • Create new housing units, or rehabilitate or preserve existing housing units, for households at or below 120% of the area median income, with a strong focus on households at or below 60% of the area median income.
  • Provide workforce housing for the growing Beaufort-Jasper economy.
  • Help households maintain financial stability and build wealth by reducing the amount of money they must spend on housing and transportation.
  • Strengthen relationships, build trust, and engage partners and stakeholders, ensuring an organized and collaborative approach to regional housing challenges.
  • Increase awareness of existing and new financial products that serve the Beaufort-Jasper community.
  • Leverage outside funding from banks, corporations, philanthropic institutions, and federal, state, and local governments

Beaufort County Council has selected Community Works, a Community Development Financial Institution based in Greenville, South Carolina, to provide administration and management support for the RHTF, which will be set up as a non-profit entity.

“This has been worked on for many years by many people, and it’s about time,” said Beaufort County Council Member Alice Howard. “I commend the volunteers’ efforts to educate the public, educate this council and make our decision to support affordable housing in our community easy.”

“There is a disconnect between where the jobs are and where the people needing those jobs can afford to live. The Regional Housing Trust Fund should do nothing less than find suitable developers to construct safe, decent, affordable housing for low-income and essential workers,” said Jasper County Chairwoman Barbara B. Clark. “This is a problem all across this country with essential workers like firefighters, cops, teachers, nurses and public works employees not being able to live in the jurisdiction in which they serve.”

Each jurisdiction gets to name one board member for the RHTF board. their job will be to oversee the process and make sure the right projects are chosen and the money is spread among all areas in both counties.

Greenway believes once a Board is in place the first project could be approved in the first quarter of 2023.