‘We’re the ones that are working:’ Horry County service workers getting pushed out as rent rises faster than wages

News13 Investigates

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — As tourists descend onto the Grand Strand’s beaches for another summer season, many more are coming to the area and staying for good.

That’s why the area is rapidly growing, but so are rent prices. And while housing developments and complexes are going up at every turn to accommodate the migration south, some people feel left out of the housing crunch.

“They can’t forget us and that’s what they’re doing,” longtime Myrtle Beach area resident Carolina Jordan said. “In my 20s it was easy to find a place to live…It didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I never had this kind of problem.”

Jordan has lived in the area for 35 years and works in hospitality. The problem is finding a new apartment for her and her fiancé ahead of their current lease ending.

“The only thing we can find that’s affordable would be shared units with college kids,” she said. “The most other affordable places are out in Conway or Loris and if you work at the beach the commute is 10 times the gas. So it’s just very, very hard. And the places that may be affordable around here are not the best places.”

Caroline’s problem is one SC Housing is tracking closely.

“You have the cost of housing is pretty substantially outpacing increases in wages,” Chief Research Officer at SC Housing Bryan Grady said. “And I think that’s particularly the case with these sort of service sector jobs that are particularly present in Horry County.” 

SC Housing’s 2021 Housing Needs Assessment says South Carolina is becoming less affordable.

The report says all but six counties in the Palmetto State have a wage gap between the average hourly renter wage and what it would take to rent a basic two bedroom apartment. Horry County has one of the highest gaps — $7.95.

“Part of the issue particularly in Horry County is a lot of the housing is to serve seasonal and vacation housing,” Grady said.

At the Housing Authority of Myrtle Beach, operations director Carol McCall said the city faces a shortage of affordable housing and housing choice vouchers.

She said a lot of people are out of work because of COVID-19 and come in asking if they can get help.

“And the answer is ‘not really,'” she said.

Other programs the Housing Authority facilitates offer some relief, but McCall says they can’t get enough landlords to take vouchers.

“I think a lot of times its that nimby feeling,” she said. “‘Oh these people really need help but not in my backyard.'”

A solution to “workforce” housing though could be around the corner.

“To be able to work in Myrtle Beach and live in Myrtle Beach, it’s got to be affordable to each individual person,” McCall said.

Free! Get breaking news, watch live news shows
Apple App Store download >
Google Play Store download for Android >

The Workforce Housing Committee is working in a way to achieve just that in the city.

“Our first part was the housing needs assessment,” Director of Construction for Habitat for Humanity of Horry County Chad Charles said. He heads up the committee. “We just completed that.”

The newly released report from the committee says 6,077 people live and work within the city of Myrtle Beach, while 35,138 work in the city but live elsewhere.

Charles said the committee is working on more research and developing potential solutions.

“From a workforce standpoint it will be new units as well as rehabbing some existing units,” he said. “Now whether there’s some subsidy or not will be left up to the city and what they’d like to see done.”

The committee is expected to present a toolkit with some actionable items in January 2022.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending stories