Charleston area churches planning more than a dozen affordable units | Features

For years, nonprofit organizations and municipal governments have invested millions of dollars and formed numerous partnerships to address the affordable housing crisis facing the Charleston area.

Now, churches are stepping up their efforts to be part of the solution.

Congregations in the Charleston area have been providing affordable housing to members of the community for decades. But as the crisis drags on, PASTORS Inc, a group of religious leaders formed in 1999, intends to build more than a dozen affordable housing across Charleston County. These include 10 homes to own and six residential units to rent. The organization hopes to finish the projects within the next 18 months.

The group is a coalition of about 20 denominations, although far fewer churches are actively involved. The organization is calling on more churches to join the effort.

Reverend Julius Barnes, PASTORS Chairman, said houses of worship must be involved in addressing the crisis because lack of affordability is affecting their members.

The nonprofit has already helped build two homes in the town of Hollywood. Charleston County gave the organization $142,000 in federal housing funds to build self-contained homes for single mothers and their families. The first home sold for $225,000 and the second for $255,000, with $10,000 left in backing for each home.

FA Johnson, director of development at PASTORS, said the women took out a loan for their mortgages through the USDA, which provided them with lower monthly payments than many people pay for rent.

Hollywood welcomes the new development. Although the city hopes very much to preserve its rural character, the municipality recognizes the need to provide places to live for those who can’t afford homes closer to urban areas in the area, said councilman Handy Miles Jr.

“People have good jobs and are looking for a home they can afford,” Miles said.

Housing is still expensive.

In June, the median sale price of homes in Charleston County was $609,500, according to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

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With the exponential rise in housing costs in recent years, Pastors has shifted his efforts toward helping people own new homes. While the organization itself does not distribute funds, it partners with agencies for funds, and so the nonprofit seeks out residents who make 80 percent or less of the median income in the area to help these individuals get new homes.

The priests plan to build an additional 10 homes across the county, focusing primarily on rural areas, where land is affordable.

However, the organization also operates on the Charleston Peninsula to provide affordable rental opportunities and also helps devotees make use of their property.

Luke’s Correctional Diocese on Nassau Street owns and is renovating an adjacent home to create two new affordable housing units. This project is being implemented in partnership with a local hospital to provide housing for patients. A short distance north at Wallingford Presbyterian Church, devotees have partnered with PASTORS and the city of Charleston to create new residences for veterans.

“We need more churches to participate,” Barnes said.

For churches, engaging in affordable housing is beneficial to both congregants and residents, Johnson said. This effort, he said, provides additional sources of income for churches, freeing them from having to rely so heavily on tithes and offerings. Affordable housing also helps provide economic empowerment to individuals, allowing them to create wealth for generations.

“That’s why we have to push the county for more homeownership opportunities,” Johnson said.

Charleston County Welcomes Partnership with PASTORS The county receives approximately $500,000 annually in housing money from the federal government. The money isn’t nearly enough to do the work needed, said Jean Sullivan, the county’s director of community development, but more help could help address the housing problem. She said the county would like to see different organizations apply for funding each year.

“The more people who participate in this effort, the better off we are,” she said.

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Reach Ricky Dennis at 937-4886. Follow him on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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