Posted: April 15, 2020
HCF is setting an innovative model that melds historic preservation with permanent affordable housing. A mid-1900s house donated to the Palmetto Community Land Trust (Palmetto CLT), a housing affordability program that HCF helped establish, will soon be moved to a lot recently purchased through a 1772 Foundation grant to HCF. This will create a new permanently affordable housing property at 963 Battery Avenue in the Maryville neighborhood of West Ashley for the Palmetto CLT portfolio. It is our intent that this will be the first of several such approaches in an effort to provide permanent attainable housing in this historic neighborhood and throughout the region.
As real estate prices have increased over the last decade, Charleston has become increasingly unaffordable. This has been compounded by speculative buyers who quickly purchase properties in our historic neighborhoods and resell these rehabbed properties at higher prices. While this results in more rehabbed historic structures, long-term residents cannot keep pace with the rising property values and are increasingly displaced, changing the character and sense of community of the neighborhoods.
HCF sees the Maryville neighborhood in West Ashley at the crux of this change as the Charleston peninsula becomes increasingly expensive and speculators are looking for new investment opportunities. Maryville and the adjacent Ashleyville, located off Highway 61 before it splits with Highway 171, were developed as freedmen’s communities in the 1880s on former plantation land. Most of the houses are small, single-story structures, constructed of wood frame or cinderblock, on 50’ x 100’ lots. Today, the two neighborhoods are considered a unit, Maryville, which is recognized as an important historical and cultural resource in Charleston’s 2008 Preservation Plan, as well as in Plan West Ashley. Increased housing prices in West Ashley are threatening the physical “community character” of West Ashley’s older historic neighborhoods, including Maryville.
This investment at 963 Battery Avenue will provide sustainable affordable housing for multiple generations through the Palmetto CLT, a program of the Charleston Redevelopment Corporation (CRC). A community land trust is a community-based organization that is established to protect long-term housing affordability. The CLT acquires land that is permanently held, and rather than a traditional sale, the CLT enters into a 99-year lease with prospective income-qualified homeowners. That lease is then renewable for an additional 99 years. The separation of the land ownership and improvements protects the affordability of these properties against the market shifts responsible for the recent displacement felt across the city.
The Foundation is most appreciative of the collaborative effort and support of The 1772 Foundation for providing funding for the land purchase and to the Mutual Aid Society, an organization historically established to support its members when affected by life challenges such as death, sickness, disability or unemployment who owned the vacant property. The Mutual Aid Society has long since ceased activities, and their remaining representatives were happy to sell the parcel for the purpose of providing affordable housing. Additionally, the owners of 912 Sycamore Avenue, a vernacular, mid-1900s house with Philip Simmons ironwork at the front porch, agreed to donate their house, which is located in the Maryville neighborhood as well, to the Palmetto CLT program.
A separate grant from the REALTORS Housing Opportunities Fund paid for lead and asbestos testing at 912 Sycamore Ave and geotechnical at 963 Battery Ave in preparation for this project. CRC co-director, Fred A. Johnson, is managing this project and JLA is the project architect and engineer. The team is currently soliciting bids from house movers and contractors to construct the new foundation and rehab the house for use as a single family residence in the Palmetto CLT program.
After nearly two years of discussions and title clearing work is finally underway to relocate this house! To lean more about Maryville and its distinctive character, click here to watch an HCF oral history with Diane Hamilton – who still lives in the same Maryville house in which she was raised.
The house at 912 Sycamore Avenue has been donated to the Palmetto CLT and will be moved down the street creating permanent affordable housing in the Maryville neighborhood.