The puzzle pieces to downtown Charleston housing are coming together.
Nearly ten years ago, a group of young professionals in Charleston met with the Charleston Area Alliance to discuss the region’s issues and needs. Downtown housing quickly rose to the top of their list and served as a springboard for the Charleston Area Alliance’s Generation Charleston. The group has continued to focus on the interest of downtown housing by hosting annual Loft Walks, which has grown to be one of their most popular events.
In 2013, downtown housing was thrust further into the spotlight as the City of Charleston, Charleston Area Alliance, Charleston Urban Renewal Authority and the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation joined forces to generate a citywide comprehensive plan and downtown development plan titled, Imagine Charleston. Part of that plan focuses on increasing downtown’s livability. The goal is to create an exceptional living environment in the urban core of Charleston. Significant improvements to the quality of public spaces and the perception of safety while incentivizing investments toward renovated and new housing developments would be essential.
With the Imagine Charleston plan underway, another downtown project was introduced. The EDGE project would bring about 35 new housing units to downtown. The project would serve as an impact incubator while simultaneously cultivating new leadership, reinvigorating our urban center and providing our businesses and institutions with a competitive edge in recruitment and retention, specifically of young professionals. The city of Charleston is spearheading this effort with the support of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation and Charleston Urban Renewal Authority.
Housing is one of the Charleston Area Alliance’s major action items as it takes the lead implementing the downtown redevelopment portion of the Imagine Charleston plan. The Alliance recognized the need for additional research on Charleston’s housing market. A housing study was completed in May with funding assistance from the Governor’s Community Partnership Program, the Kanawha Valley Council on Philanthropy, Charleston Urban Renewal Authority and the city of Charleston. Bowen National Research provided a comprehensive market study of both rental and for sale housing for not only downtown but the entire city.
The report included an overview of the history and general characteristics of Charleston, an analysis of more than 100 demographic and economic metrics, findings from nearly 30 community stakeholder interviews, a rental housing survey of 46 multifamily apartments with more than 3,090 units, a for-sale housing gap analysis for various income segments in Charleston and an overview of other housing factors that influence the housing market.
The report states, based on demographics, Charleston will likely require 400 more housing units consisting of small unit types (two-bedroom or smaller), and units that meet the needs of higher income households and Charleston’s aging population.
The housing supply factors note the multifamily apartment rentals in downtown Charleston is at 100 percent, which indicates a housing shortage. The entire city is at 99.7 percent. Generally, an occupancy level over 97 percent is an indication of a housing shortage which can lead to housing problems. There is a residential development opportunity for downtown Charleston.
Houses in downtown Charleston have sold at double the price per square foot compared to the city as a whole. Available downtown housing according to the Multiple Listing Services data shows houses listed at a median list price of $231,000 as compared to the city of Charleston median list price of $164,600. It is important to note that the total square footage of houses in downtown is much smaller than those in the city at large.
The pricing and performance of recently sold housing units in downtown compared to the overall city indicates a healthy for-sale housing market in the downtown area.
Charleston Area Alliance understands there are significant hurdles our community needs to overcome to bring more downtown housing development to life. We are committed to better understanding the hurdles and will work to address them with available resources.
For more information please contact Susie Salisbury, VP Community Development, Charleston Area Alliance at 304-340-4253. A full copy of the report is available at CharlestonAreaAlliance.org, Community Enhancement-Current Projects.