Lowcountry leaders launch housing program at USCB to help summer workforce

South Carolina News

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (WSAV) — Hundreds of jobs are open in Hilton Head and Bluffton, many because people can’t afford to live there.

But with summer coming, Lowcountry leaders are trying to come up with a way to make living and working there more affordable.

“As we continue to see our economy grow, and the ability for it to grow, we have less workforce that can live and work right here in the same place,” said Alan Wolf, Director of Operations for SERG Restaurant Group. “We’re all looking for employment to continue to deliver at the high level that’s expected of the Lowcountry in Hilton Head and Bluffton.”

The Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce held its second Workforce Summit Wednesday to learn how others make it work.

“We have people in from Aspen, from Asheville, from Texas, Florida, really all over the country to share some of their, challenges that they’ve had, but more some of the solutions,” said Bill Meyers, the Chamber’s President and CEO.

Part of that solution was creating a Business Workforce Coalition.

“The Business Workforce Coalition represents 4,500 jobs in Hilton Head and Bluffton alone. We have 582 available jobs as of a survey two weeks ago, of just 20 employers of that group,” Wolf said.

This summer the chamber is piloting a short-term solution–a housing program with the University of South Carolina Beaufort dorms.

“We’ll have 84 beds that will become available for workforce,” Miles said. “Think about this for a minute: you can come in, you have a job, you have a place to live, and you also can take a class or two during the summer.”

While the program is aimed at students, Wolf says they’re working on the long-term for everyone.

“Whether it’s a dormitory or it’s a garden style walk-up apartment, or it’s an entry-level house for a teacher that’s moved to the area…” Wolf said.

That starts with the towns working with developers to change zoning laws and help with the cost.

“We’re talking to the developers, we’re understanding the costs associated, and what the gap is between the cost of land, cost of development, and how these municipalities in Bluffton and Hilton Head can play a role in helping close that gap so we can put these products on the marketplace for the workers that need it,” Wolf said.

The chamber is not sure what rent will be for the USCB housing program yet; they are still working on the details.

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