MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Some South Carolina lawmakers are considering a long-term solution to what they say is a lack of affordable housing.

A proposed bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives would allow counties or municipalities with at least 50,000 residents to impose laws that require that certain portions of new developments be dedicated to affordable housing options or have developers pay into an affordable housing fund instead.

Rep. Joseph Jefferson, Jr., (D-Berkeley County), is one of the bill’s 21 sponsors which includes members from both sides of the aisle.

Jefferson said the bill is one step toward increased regulation that protects renters.

“Many people are just stuck right now not being able to afford where they are,” Jefferson said.

In our region, the bill would give Horry, Florence and Darlington Counties the go-ahead to require affordable housing options that don’t exceed 80% of the median local income.

In Myrtle Beach, rent prices are up nearly 30% since 2019, and Zillow reports home values in the city are up 32% since just last year.

Jefferson said he’s hopeful the House takes up the bill next week, adding that now is the time to push it through.

“There are so many people who are just up and leaving overnight because they just can’t afford it,” Jefferson said. “Now we’re very fortunate that we have more industries coming into the state of South Carolina every day.”

Short term relief is available to qualifying renters in 39 South Carolina counties by SC Housing’s SC Stay Plus program. In Horry County, similar assistance is provided by the Eastern Carolina Housing Organization. Chris Winston, SC Housing spokesperson, said he expects more people to sign up for rental or utility assistance as people look for apartments this spring.

“As people’s leases are running out they may be looking for somewhere else to live,” Winston said. “You’re not always able to find somewhere more affordable than where you are now.”

The program still has $156 million in federal funding available, which includes an installment of $65 million coming soon. Winston said the agency has helped more than 20,000 South Carolinians stay in their homes with utilities since its launch in May of 2021.

Winston said some people have turned to the program for additional rounds of assistance as rising housing costs are still pricing some people out of the market.

“There are certainly some people in South Carolina who still need the assistance, who still see their hours impacted by COVID, who’re still missing work, who still have child care issues, who’re living kind of on the edge of homelessness or housing instability who need that assistance,” Winston said.

Qualifying homeowners can also get assistance from SC Housing with the South Carolina Homeowner Rescue Program.