As new luxury high rise breaks ground, many long for affordable housing

Jennifer Wilford knows all about the issues facing low-income families in Rock Hill. She is the director of housing and neighborhood services for the city.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — On Tuesday, Rock Hill leaders broke ground on a luxury high rise apartment complex, the first of its kind in the city.

Following that event, several people in the community spoke out to Channel 9, concerned about the lack of good, safe and affordable housing.

“That looks good for downtown, but there are people struggling,” said Jazmine Hunt. She grew up in Rock Hill, but said it’s hard to find something that’s nice and affordable here.

“I just want a cheap house, but I want it to look nice. Nice enough to have kids running around outside. Safe enough,” she said.

Antonio Mitchell moved out of an apartment in town because he could no longer afford it.

“I was paying $1,400 for a two bedroom. Not a three. Not a four, a two. I was living check to check for that house,” he said.

Mitchell now pays roughly $200 a month, and lives in an income-based complex run by the housing authority. Many of the complexes considered affordable are HUD-subsidized and have long waiting lists to get in.

When the upscale apartments called the Exchange at Rock Hill broke ground on Tuesday, some saw the $45 million project as a game changer for Rock Hill. Others saw it as the same game. $1,500 a month rent is an amount that many just can’t swing.

Jennifer Wilford knows all about the issues facing low-income families in Rock Hill. She is the director of housing and neighborhood services for the city.

“Affordable housing in Rock Hill, and everywhere. It’s a huge challenge,” Wilford said.

She said change has been slow to arrive, but a new policy put in place this summer requires builders who get certain financial incentives to set aside some units for lower-income renters.

“All of the developers that I’ve spoken with are open to those types of partnerships, but it’s finding those layers of the different programs, different policies, and different incentives to make these things work together,” she said.

One example is the former fairgrounds at Cherry Road and Constitution Boulevard, where a 100-plus unit mixed-use complex will go. It will all be affordable housing.

According to HUD, “affordable” basically means monthly rent is between $800 and $1,100. However, some don’t consider that affordable enough.

Some less expensive options are substandard or viewed as unsafe.

The high end “Exchange at Rock Hill” will have some affordable units when it opens next fall. However, the city and the developer are still negotiating how many there will be.

Housing complex demolition in north Charlotte has residents worried about moving

© 2020 Cox Media Group