Some public policy victories practically shout. They are marked by bold public statements in stately buildings, splashy headlines and bill signing ceremonies. Others barely whisper. They happen in fluorescent-lit conference rooms and are announced in the fine print on government websites. However, no policy win happens by mistake or without leadership.
This fall, housing supporters region-wide notched one of those “whisper” wins in a highly coordinated, massively successful effort to tweak the way South Carolina allocates federal low-income housing tax credits. The result is a more competitive process for public, private and non-profit affordable housing developers in our region seeking federal financing assistance to build workforce affordable housing.
Here’s the quick backstory – the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program is a Reagan-era federal tax credit designed to support the creation of affordable housing. The market-driven program is administered by the federal government, but the distribution of credits is delegated to state agencies who establish their own competitive application processes. In South Carolina, that process is run by the State Housing Finance and Development Authority. For lots of reasons, the current formula disadvantages projects from our region. Despite our massive housing need, only one affordable housing project from the Charleston area has earned credits since 2015. The process was up for administrative review in 2018, and our region seized the public input opportunity.
The Charleston Metro Chamber was proud to be one of 15 organizations from the Charleston region all seeking the same basic modifications to the current formula:
- Incentivize mixed-use & mixed-income development
- Raise the cap on the number of units and cost per unit for eligible projects
- Modify site characteristics scoring to not penalize urban areas
- Increasing a pool of funds dedicated to projects in urban areas
The Charleston area coalition, which included municipalities, philanthropic organizations, individual businesses, faith groups and developers, accounted for a third of all comments submitted statewide. A group that large and diverse saying the same thing carries weight. In this case, it got results. Of the dozen or more specific requested changes, roughly 75% were included in the final recommendations submitted for the Governor’s signature.
That kind of win doesn’t necessarily shout, but it’s worth shouting about.
It’s also worth noting that such a high level of alignment was facilitated by One Region, the values-based regional competitiveness strategy which underscores our housing need. One Region project director, Sam Skardon, kept the coalition on track and up-to-date throughout. To keep up with the latest collective efforts by regional allies, subscribe to the One Region monthly newsletter.
SVP Government Relations