Charleston plans to bring in ‘micro units’ to help address affordable housing shortage

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) — The city of Charleston is considering a change that could bring smaller apartments to the area, but there’s a catch: you won’t get a parking spot.

The city says it needs to build more than 16,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years to meet demand.

Council member Ross Appel says bringing micro units to the city could reduce that number.

“These micro units won’t be for everyone, but they will be for some people,” Appel said. “We need to keep innovating and finding ways to facilitate additional density while making sure to balance all the other important issues.”

City documents say units must be larger than 250 square feet but no larger than 375 square feet.

Each unit must also have its own kitchen, bed and bathroom, but these would not come with a parking sticker for cars.

“Our current zoning ordinances require you to provide parking spaces, and that’s one of the things that makes housing unaffordable,” Appel said. “It’s just too hard to build housing because it’s so hard to accommodate the amount of off-site parking.”

These micro units can only be built on specific areas of the peninsula. They must be built within three quarters of a mile from the nearest grocery store and within a quarter of a mile from a bus stop.

Danny Fulton lives on the peninsula and says these types of units could attract more people to the area.

“Especially for students who can’t afford a car,” Fulton said. “It’s also good for veterans to have a place close to the VA hospital. Most of the things you need in Charleston itself are within biking distance anyway and that will reduce traffic.

Council approved the proposed zoning change on first reading at its last meeting, but referred it to committee for further discussion.

“There’s nothing wrong with making sure we’re doing it right, so we can have this as a successful example of what zoning reform can mean for affordable housing,” Appel said.

The proposed zoning change is expected to come to council for a second reading this summer.

Copyright 2022 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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