9 Investigates: Searching for affordable housing solutions in the Carolinas

YORK COUNTY, S.C. — Rising prices, home costs and inflation are taking their toll on our community, driving some families onto the streets and impacting people from all walks of life.

“These are parents, adults, children that may be in these encampments,” said Alex Greenawalt, the executive director at Pathways Community Center in Rock Hill. “What we’re seeing is it could be the average Joe that just lost their job, and they’re struggling. They don’t want to separate their family to go into a shelter, so they’re making the hard decision to live in a tent out in the woods.”

A recent study found more than 10,000 renters in York, Chester, Lancaster, Chesterfield, and Kershaw are severely cost-burdened, which means they’re paying more than half their gross income on rent or have no income.

Advocates for affordable housing in York County said high prices had forced some families into homeless encampments.

Vincent Maloco moved to York County looking for lower prices and affordable housing.

“It’s better than it was, even though it’s not as good as it could be,” Maloco said.

Maloco and his family are renting a mobile home and staying afloat.

Greenawalt said people struggle to make ends meet because of the current economy. Some families end up living in a growing number of homeless camps; she said that there are about 60 in Rock Hill and many more across York County.

Pathways Community Center is a nonprofit that helps get people out of camps in York County.

“There are not many options out there deemed affordable,” Greenawalt said.

Affordable housing advocate Dale Dove agreed, and he has been working with Rock Hill leaders in hopes of building 10 to 12 small affordable homes in the Boyd Hill neighborhood on Bynum Avenue. The units would be between 300 and 600 square feet.

“Well, it’s not legal in the city right now,” Dove said. “The city requires houses that are 860 square feet. But I believe the city is willing to look at a research and development project to see if houses, small houses like that one and two-bedroom might be something the city would want to encourage and embrace.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that housing is affordable if a family can live in the house and pay utilities for 30% or less of its income.

Neither York County nor the city of Rock Hill could tell Terry how many affordable housing units exist within their limits or how many units are needed.

The city of Rock Hill stated in an email, “Over the last two years, the city council has approved the rezoning of seven workforce/affordable housing projects across the community that are expected to bring approximately 900 additional units to Rock Hill.”

Terry asked the city of Rock Hill about the tiny house proposal. A spokesperson said planning and development is open to work with any developer to help them navigate processes and provide guidance on rezoning applications. The applications could be brought before the Planning Commission for its recommendation and to the city council for consideration.

The spokesperson for the county said it is considering developing a comprehensive housing assessment that could “require a portion of all new multifamily buildings to be affordable units, reduce permitting costs of affordable housing and convey county land to nonprofit housing organizations.

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The city of Rock Hill said over the last two years, the city council has approved the rezoning of seven workforce/affordable housing projects across the community. The projects are expected to bring approximately 900 additional units to Rock Hill.

A spokesperson for York County said it is considering developing a Comprehensive Housing Assessment that could require a portion of all new multi-family buildings to be affordable units.

“We need to talk through more of these options because as we see it now if we don’t get ahead of this it’s already going to be too late,” Greenawalt said.

(WATCH BELOW: 11 Charlotte affordable housing developments short $32 million, city says)