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Beaufort County community development director Eric Greenway said last week the Southern Lowcountry Regional Board has gotten “100 percent participation” from municipalities in its effort to hire a consultant to start an affordable housing trust fund.
Jasper County recently approved a resolution to contribute an amount not to exceed $10,000 for the effort. Hardeeville, Bluffton, Beaufort, Hilton Head Island, Yemassee and Beaufort and Jasper counties also have signed on to the effort to provide more affordable housing in the Lowcountry.
Yemassee has committed $1,000, the city of Beaufort has committed $5,000, Port Royal has committed $5,000, Beaufort County has made a commitment not to exceed $65,000, Hardeeville has committed $5,000, Hilton Head has committed $20,000 and Bluffton has made a commitment not to exceed $15,000.
Each municipality will appoint two individuals to serve on a steering committee for the consultant. Greenway said he believes the effort remains on track to begin work with the housing trust fund at the beginning of next year.
Greenway explained at last week’s board meeting how the municipalities could look at opportunity zones as potential locations for affordable housing in the future. The opportunity zone designation was created two years ago by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts to encourage investment in lower-income areas.
“The opportunity zone issue is something that is very important,” he said.
Greenway said there are two opportunity zones in Beaufort County: one near the Hilton Head Island Airport and the other near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
“There’s not a lot of opportunities for us, but it is a big opportunity for us to achieve more attainable housing and encourage investment in the areas that are blighted and not developing quickly,” he said.
“Hardeeville has one opportunity zone that extends along Interstate 95 and Highway 17. I encourage you all to talk to your federal representatives and encourage them to re-evaluate the opportunity zones in the county and in this region.