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  • Writer's pictureHaley Lovin

Major issues arise in Charleston thanks to growing population

Updated: Apr 30

By Haley Lovin

CHARLESTON, S.C. - As Charleston continues to rack up accolades as one of the best cities in the country, namely for its southern charm, the city’s continued struggles for racial and financial equality make it a lot less charming for many residents. 

Gentrification, segregation, and a rising cost of living have resulted from an influx of people moving to Charleston.

“People come to Charleston to enjoy all the beautiful things and activities, and because of that the cost of living is really high so if you can’t meet that cost of living then you can’t take advantage of any of these cool things that are here,” said Bethany Kao, a College of Charleston student from Virginia. 

Business Insider identified South Carolina as the fastest-growing state from July 2022 to July 2023, with a 1.7% population increase.

As a result, the cost of living in Charleston is 4.9% higher than the national average, and the cost of housing is 14.8% higher according to

“The cost of living has gone up so much that if you want to buy a good house in a good location, you know, you gotta be making six figures, or you’re gonna be living 30 minutes away, you know a little outside of Charleston or way north Mount Pleasant,” said Charlestonian Isabella Davis.

The increase in cost of living has further amplified gentrification. 

Although new residents have reaped the many benefits, many families have been stripped of their generational homes and forced to move.  

“I just think it ⦍gentrification⦎ is so sad because people who have been here for generations and generations and have lived in Charleston with their families, who were born here in the 1900s, 1800s, they can’t even afford to live in their houses anymore,” said Charlestonian Geneva Kowbeidu. “And it's all these new people who have come from New York and California that are moving here and they are tearing down the houses of old Charleston families.” 

This problem has primarily affected black families and neighborhoods.

The rising cost of living and increased gentrification ends up affecting many of the city's predominantly black neighborhoods that were formed during the days of segregation. 

Now many of those families are forced to move off the land and out of the homes their ancestors built after the Civil War.

Kowbeidu pointed out that when city planners and developers tear down old neighborhoods to gentrify, it's often homes of African Americans. 

“Those were the first to go," she said.

Despite this ongoing battle for fairness and racial equality in the South, Charleston remains a favorite city for many reasons and population growth is still happening.

With its Southern charm and hospitality, great weather, proximity to the beach and rich American history, Charleston is still a popular spot for people across the country wanting to move. 

Consequently, Travel and Leisure has named Charleston the No. 1 city in the United States for 11 years in a row.

“I love that it's a coastal city, so you’re not only 20 minutes away from the beach but… you could just go up and down the coast or however much you want,” said out-of-state College of Charleston student Elizabeth Clarke.

Additionally, Charleston distinguishes itself from other cities by offering a plethora of things to do and places to see, for both tourists and residents alike, all within a short radius. 

“I think for the kind of community that’s built here, it’s the planning of it that is so prioritized and the culture of it is so focused on the aesthetic and the food and the experience of it. That generates so much appeal and it is in a location where it is a little bit more removed and of course it’s by the beach,” out-of-state College of Charleston student Bethany Kao said. 

Those who can afford the lavish lifestyle in Charleston report great satisfaction and love for the city, and reap the social rewards instilled by the Southern lifestyle. 

“My favorite part is the amount of opportunities that there are here in terms of business connections but also socially,” said Clarke. “There’s always something going on. You have thrifting events, the food and wine festival, so just like the amount of stuff there is to do and opportunities here.” 

While the “southern charm” and location of Charleston has compelled thousands to move here each year, longtime residents have communicated the negative effects that dispute perceptions of a charming community. 

“I feel like Charleston is still really divided and you can drive downtown and it's kind of still segregated, which it's literally 2024, it should not still be segregated,” said Kowbeidu. 

“So hopefully by then ⦍10 years from now⦎ the politicians who are running in Charleston will have more conversations and make housing more accessible and safer for everyone, so it is not divided.” 

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