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On December 20 2018, the Riley Park Club hosted Business in your Backyard at their beautiful facility to discuss the real cost of a housing crisis and how we can all work together to find solutions that will help everyone have access to safe, attainable housing. This includes helping residents to live closer to where they work. There weren’t just business executives in the room, but teachers, food and beverage personnel, recent college graduates and employees that struggle to pay housing expenses and still be able to afford to live even a modest lifestyle.
A powerful panel of leaders, moderated by Wil Riley, Chief Executive Officer for the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors (CTAR), spoke about how their businesses and employees are affected by the housing attainability crisis in our region. Erica Taylor, Chief Strategy and Communications Officer for Charleston County Schools, walked through a teacher’s typical monthly expenses with five or less years of experience. The sad truth is they’re barely making ends meet while trying to educate our children and grandchildren and give them the best opportunities possible. She ran through a teacher’s typical housing bills and said that “at the end of the month, our teachers may only have $100 extra after all of their bills – and I’m not including student loan bills or out of the ordinary bills that may come up for that individual.” She continued saying that because of this, even though the teachers are passionate about the work they do, will move on to better paying professions knowing that teachers don’t have as many opportunities to grow financially and afford to buy a home or pay their rent.
Melanie Stith, Vice President for Roper St. Francis Healthcare, challenged all employers to get on board with finding a solution to the housing issue as it’s forcing top talent to leave Charleston and decline quality jobs, leaving long-standing vacancies for companies to fill. “This isn’t just a developer’s issue, or one industry’s issue – it’s OUR issue. Housing attainability is a large issue and I challenge all employers to get involved so we don’t lose top talent in our region.” The shortage of affordable housing is deterring not just talent, but strong and sustainable growth in our region and employee morale.
Employee morale was a theme throughout the panel discussion, because those that may have a great job but still struggle to make ends meet outside of work may experience stress seeping into the workplace and affecting their productivity. Also, living further from where you work means more time in the car and less time with the people that you care about at home. More time in the car leads to more traffic and further frustration for all involved. Pretty vicious cycle we’ve gotten ourselves into huh? Bob Seidler, Principal with Seidler & Associates, said that “if we can recruit in our own backyard, transportation is easier and so is employee morale if they are able to live closer to where they work.”
There is no silver bullet to solve our housing challenge – but speaking with a united voice is a key first step in the right direction. The business community, along with residents, can bring attention to these issues and push collaboration forward more quickly. Learn more about housing attainability facts and figures and possible solutions.