Issues With Non-Affordable Housing in Charleston
By Lara Tole
Affordable housing in Charleston has been an ongoing issue on the peninsula for several years. Students at The College of Charleston often struggle to find places to live off campus that they can afford.
With limited space available in dorms, it can be tough to find a place for them to call home.
Sam Lagod, an Amicus properties landlord that has had his real estate license since 2016, owns eight properties in Charleston.
Noting that many of his tenants are students at CofC, Medical University of South Carolina, and Charleston School of Law, Lagod said the high demand has definitely pushed up rental prices in the past decade.
“Over the past 10 years there has been a major increase not only for property sale prices but also in rent prices. In the past two years, we have seen the most dramatic increase in prices but in the last six months, it has plateaued out,” Lagod said.
The average rent for an apartment in Charleston to this day is $1,872. The cost of rent varies depending on where the property is located, the size, and the quality.
In addition, the cost of living in Charleston as a whole including utilities, food, healthcare, transportation, goods and services is 3 percent higher than the state average.
Cosmo Pallazola is a recent graduate from The College, who has a degree in historical preservation and community planning.
Pallazola now helps out with the non-profit Community Management Team for the Peninsula.
“When I attended The College of Charleston, I found finding a decent apartment unit that suits three roommates that was reasonably close to campus was hard to find under $900, which is very hard to afford for a college student,'' Pallazola said.
People attending The College of Charleston are angry and want to see a change in the way that the University is handling affordable housing for students.
Charlotte Jones is a senior at The College who was never given the opportunity to live on campus because she transferred to CofC from The University of South Carolina, before her sophomore year.
Jones lives with five other girls on Felix Street and their house is split into two levels with three girls living on each level.
“I found it extremely difficult to find a relatively inexpensive house in downtown Charleston,” Jones said. “My house on Felix Street this year is in a perfect location near campus and King Street, but the price is definitely more than I would want to spend.”
Jones pays $1,300 for her 220-square foot bedroom. With an extra $100 for her share of the utilities, monthly rent is $1,400.
This is an absurd amount of money for a college student, Jones believes, and hopes it will change or else students will have to relocate away from campus.
And while that isn’t the worst thing in the world, moving far away from campus takes away from a true campus experience that’s important to students as well as much of the draw for attending The College.
“If the rent for these downtown houses keep going up, like they have been in the past years, I feel as though many people will choose to relocate to maybe over the bridge somewhere in Mount Pleasant or West Ashley,” Jones added.
Lagod also believes that students are going to have to relocate to find more affordable housing.
“As the rent prices continue to grow, the students will need to look further off of the peninsula,” he said. “There is a very high demand for properties downtown due to the location near the campus and as long as there is a demand, the prices will continue to rise. Students will need to start looking towards the east side of the peninsula, James Island, Mt Pleasant, West Ashely, etc., where there are more affordable options.”
Pallazola had a classmate who was considering transferring because of the housing costs.
“She explained to the class that since upperclassmen weren’t allowed to live in the dorms, that she may be forced to transfer schools because she couldn’t afford the housing downtown,” he said.
In fact, CofC Admissions counselors recognize that housing is an issue for attracting and keeping students at The College, especially with the main campus dorm, McAlister, being knocked down.
Last year, the campus housing team set up a tabling event with area housing providers so that students could meet with a variety of off-campus operators at once. In addition to this, they provide the CARTA bus service for free to all CofC students, so students living off the peninsula have free transportation to campus.
This was a popular event that would keep being successful year after year, to ensure that all students can find somewhere to live.
Pallazola believes that the school won’t have a problem enrolling students in the years to come, and although the cost of living is still rising, he believes the number of applicants are going to still rise.
He believes that the school should set up a program that allows certain students to apply for housing aid.
By opening new on campus dorms, it will allow more students to get the same opportunities as everyone else.
The College has no set plans as to what they may do about this issue, as stated from their recent news post on the CofC housing website.
However, with the newly renovated McAlister dorm being done in time for the 2023-2024 school year, they hope to have enough dorm rooms to accommodate the students who wish to live in one.