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Mount Pleasant mayor appoints ‘attainable housing’ task force

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Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page said community outreach efforts by the police department and development of Shem Creek Park Phase II were among the town's accomplishments in 2015. (Photos/Mount Pleasant)

By Andy Owens
Published Feb. 16, 2016

Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page has appointed a task force to look at “attainable housing” in one of the most expensive places to live in South Carolina.

Page said she had tapped former town councilwoman Thomasena Stokes-Marshall to lead the task force, which will meet soon to look at ways to secure housing in Mount Pleasant.

Charleston-area homeownership costs

The S.C. Community Loan Fund reports that Mount Pleasant has the highest median monthly costs for homeownership across the region.
Mount Pleasant
Goose Creek
North Charleston
Monthly costs with mortgage
Source: S.C. Community Loan Fund, 2014 Charleston Tri-County Region Housing Blueprint

Regional home prices 5-year trend

The Charleston region saw the largest gain in median home price from 2011 to 2015, according to data from the S.C. Association of Realtors. The region saw a gain of 23.3% over 5 years compared with the statewide average of 18.6%.
Median home price
Source: S.C. Association of Realtors

“We know that a healthy community is one that’s self-sustaining. That means that our residents can live here through all the stages of their lives,” Page said during her annual State of the Town address last week. “They can earn affordable wages here and enjoy recreational offerings. They should be able to do everything they need without leaving us.”

Page said that government can foster an environment for sustainability, livability and governance but that residents and businesses must collaborate to find solutions for housing and similar issues in order to promote diversity and prevent gentrification.

“I truly believe democracy works best when all partners are involved. Everyone has a busy life these days, and I understand that, but we need you to make participation a priority,” Page said. “Not just when something happens that you don’t like. The issues that we face today are complex and far-reaching, and the solutions need to be creative and collaborative.”

Before her address, a video presentation was shown highlighting some of the town’s accomplishments in 2015, including infrastructure projects, ongoing construction of a new town hall, 25 miles of maintenance on the town’s water and drainage system, completion of Billy Swails Boulevard, and community outreach efforts such as mayoral roundtables and police officers reading and talking with children.

“What makes our community unique is that we simply showed you a typical workday,” Page said following the video, which can be seen online.

In previous addresses, Page had stressed cooperation among council members. That theme permeated comments from residents, the opening prayer and Page’s speech, which focused on new council members who won seats in November.

“If nothing else, I want you to take one key point away from my comments tonight, and here it is: My ultimate goal for this year is for Town Council to develop a unified vision for the community and to work with one another in achieving that vision,” Page said.

During a recent retreat, Town Council members focused on several priorities to take a broader view of challenges and opportunities facing the town, she said. Legislative priorities are the same as in previous years and include infrastructure, maintenance and restoration of local government revenue, and growth.

The widening of S.C. Highway 41 continues to be a top priority for the town, she said, as demonstrated by a partnership with Charleston County to begin work on the project. The county is setting aside $1.2 million for the project, with Mount Pleasant setting aside $3.9 million.

“We will continue to work with county, and we’re going to advocate on your behalf to get this entire, important project fully funded,” she said.

Page said infrastructure can be boring and unappealing, but the value of improvement and maintenance became clear when massive floods rained down on the lower half of South Carolina in October.

“Last year, we spent $1.2 million on stormwater infrastructure projects,” Page said. “Few people think about how important these projects are until, like the event that we had this year with the thousand-year flood, we received one of the highest levels of rainfall and we saw one of the least amounts of damage.”

Mount Pleasant, like most municipalities across South Carolina, wants payments restored from the Local Government Fund. Les Boles, director of budget development for the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, said earlier this year that it would take $100 million to fully restore the fund.

Page said the refusal of the state to return the money, coupled with attempts to restrict business license fees at the state level, limits revenue sources for municipalities.

“We’re reinforcing our efforts at the state level to defend revenue sources that are rightfully yours,” Page said. “Revenue such as the Local Government Fund, the business license fee are under attack yet again — but we refuse to back down.”

Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142.

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