MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Habitat for Humanity of Horry County is in the early stages of a plan that aims to help redevelop one Myrtle Beach neighborhood, officials told the city of Myrtle of Beach Planning Commission on Tuesday.
Meagan Michal, Habitat’s neighborhood revitalization director, said the organization has begun working with the yet-to-be-identified neighborhood as part of a broader plan to help improve the quality of life for city residents.
“Neighborhood revitalization has been a part of Habitat for Humanity for more than a decade,” she said. “But what we’re doing here is new to Horry County.”
The program relies on asset-based community development, she said, stressing the importance of resident leadership and involvement; available natural resources; participation by businesses and any other groups or organizations that “share a passion” for a neighborhood.
By focusing on a single neighborhood, Michal said research can be done on overall quality-of-life improvements that can help residents feel safer and more engaged. It’s a “pathway to collaborate on ideas,” she said.
Habitat has developed a timeline for the program, according to Michal. It includes neighborhood discussions that have already begun. In July, officials will begin data collection and asset mapping. August will consist of quality-of-life planning.
Then, from September to December, efforts will shift to what Michal called “quick-win” projects. These will be more visible and immediate things like beautification projects, financial literacy classes or other advocacy efforts.
“These are designed to help the neighborhood can see the fruits of their labor,” she said, adding that it is also an area where the planning commission has an opportunity to be more involved.
“Neighborhood revitalization is not a quick-turnaround endeavor,” she said. “It can take years and years.”
Chad Charles, assistant executive director for Habitat for Humanity in Horry County, also discussed the organization’s efforts to create new affordable workforce housing in Myrtle Beach.
There are currently about 41,000 full-time jobs within city limits, he said. However, he said it’s difficult, if not impossible, for the people who fill those jobs to find affordable housing, meaning many people end up commuting, That, in turn, leads to increased traffic and congestion, he said.
He said Habitat for Humanity is working primarily with developers to create mixed-use and single-family properties. Homes would be in the below-$200,000 range, while rent would be $875 or less, he said, adding that one stipulation is a requirement to work for a business inside the city limits.
At least two planning commission members agreed there is room for improvement when it comes to jobs and housing in the city.
“We have a lot of low-paying jobs,” Chairman Bill Pritchard said. “We don’t have a lot of what I”ll call middle paying jobs.”
Member Zeb Thomas III said: “We really need more dynamic development that I think appeals to a younger crowd that we really don’t have at this stage.”
Finding and creating affordable housing is also hampered by the cost of land, which Charles said has “gotten out of reach” for many people.
“Workforce housing affects the quality of life for everyone in this room,” he said.