North Central Neighborhood Stabilization

Funded by a grant from the 1772 Foundation, HCF hired Alexandria-VA based urban planning consultants, czb, to study the dynamic market effects surrounding the North Central neighborhood (outlined below.)

The development pressures in this area are dramatically increasing.  So, too, is the pressure to preserve the historic fabric and character of North Central and other neighborhoods facing escalating real estate values as the demand for housing on the peninsula increases.

Unchecked, gentrification will undoubtedly occur.

Stabilizing a community facing development pressure is a monumental task.  Frankly, HCF does not have the capacity nor the resources to address the issues alone.  What HCF does have, however, is a proven history of convening multiple parties to solve huge community issues and of engaging multiple perspectives.

"We look forward to working with the North Central community, with other non-profit organizations, the City of Charleston and other engaged stake-holders to protect and stabilize this neighborhood," said Winslow Hastie, HCF's Chief Preservation Officer. "We know that we must act now, before market forces make it cost-prohibitive to do so."

The czb recommendations include:

  • Implement a Preservation & Rehabilitation Loan Fund.
  • Promote and, with the City, co-facilitate the creation of a Charleston Area Community Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that leases land for long-term housing affordability.
  • Develop an Affordable Infill Assistance Program.
  • Consider establishing a Foundation policy to publicly support the strategic acquisition of key vacant parcels targeted for infill as well as demolition of certain historic properties.
  • Establish quality standards for developers trying to buy and transfer properties.
  • Establish a list of all heirs’ properties in North Central so that the Foundation can help seek out partners to address and clear up the ownership of these properties.
  • Help develop voluntary Architectural Guidelines for the neighborhood and provide advice and counsel to the neighborhood residents about ways to renovate homes that are architecturally appropriate and affordable.
  • Establish a significant awards program (with plaques and promotion) for homes that renovate according to guidelines.

czb also recommends the implementation of a strong public policy program:

  • Encourage the city to re-evaluate its inclusionary zoning and density policies, and to consider strengthening or enacting new policies that tie the approval of infill housing to affordability.
  • Create a development impact fee for projects over a certain size (no matter the use or zoning classification) to generate revenue for a dedicated Affordable Housing Fund.
  • Charge an impact fee when rental housing is converted to condominiums and direct all or a portion of the fee to incentives or subsidies for affordable housing.
  • Deploy a development rights trading/banking program, designating some parts of Charleston as “sending” districts and others as “receiving” where incentives can be marshaled to transfer demand and increase the amount of subsidy for affordable housing goals.
  • Adopt policies that tie any approved demolition to affordability (demolition fees go to affordability programs and/or projects that contribute to affordability in some way).
  • Push for the creation of a “mini-BAR” or BAR-lite model for the North Central neighborhood that puts a base-line of design review in place for the neighborhood.
  • The community should push for measures to allow a land bank to put a hold on an heirs’ property, which, after a set time, would revert to an ownership of that property assuming no heirs come forward.
  • Review and consider changes to property tax abatement programs for seniors and long-time residents of the neighborhood to maximize the opportunity for them to stay in the community.
  • Push for the creation of a North Central Community Development Corporation modeled on the original Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) structure of resident-led home ownership oriented mission aimed at healthy neighborhood establishment.
  • Issue bonds to finance the acquisition of land and its development for permanent affordable housing.

Of course, any stabilization project will be successful ONLY with the support of the residents.  After conducting public forums and one-on-one interviews with residents, czb formulated the following recommendations:

  • Establish an array of communication tools to help people know what is happening in their neighborhood.
  • Provide homeowner education opportunities and assist others with grant applications geared toward neighborhood revitalization.
  • Work with partners to create North Central Preservation Alliance to “advance policies and programs in the neighborhood” and beyond.
  • Work with the Sustainability Institute and other partners (like HCF) to reduce homeowner energy expenses.
  • Organize monthly or quarterly community clean up and neighborhood beautification days.
  • Use community meetings, newsletters and other settings to provide homeowners’ education opportunities about city tax abatement programs, home rehabilitation opportunities, financial counseling services, etc.
  • Develop a Historic Plaque Program with HCF that allows neighbors to buy plaques signifying the historic significance of their properties that they can place on their homes.
  • Seek out grant funding and other support to create an Oral History project for the North Central neighborhood to record histories of the residents.
  • Consider creating a neighborhood parking, biking and pedestrian safety committee within NCNA to work on pedestrian, parking and biking issues in the neighborhood.
  • Consider creating a neighborhood Children, Youth and Schools Program Committee within NCNA to work on youth programs, child care and after school care issues in the neighborhood.
  • Consider creating a neighborhood quality of life committee within NCNA to work on the issue of too many billboards, the desire for more grocery stores, and more.

Next Steps

HCF is currently vetting and prioritizing the czb recommendations.  Additionally, the Foundation has approached The City of Charleston and organizations such as the SC Community Loan Fund to begin the dialog on this important and time-sensitive initiative.

Read the full czb report.




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