By: Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser
We live in prosperous times. Politicians of both major parties speak of how well the economy does when their party is in power, and cites statistics to show how unemployment was reduced, or how the stock market soared, then or now. If that is the case, then poverty should be just about non-existent, in these times of plenty.
But it’s not.
Here in South Carolina, one can measure poverty. The SC State Housing Finance and Development Authority did exactly that last month, in their “Housing Needs Assessment.” Here are some of their findings. (1) One quarter of SC renters experience a “severe cost burden,” meaning that they spend more than half their gross income on rent or have no income at all. (2) In all but five SC counties (none are near Edgefield County), the average renter cannot afford a basic two-bedroom apartment without overextending their budget. (3) SC has, by far (these are the study’s words), the highest rate of evictions in the United States. This leads to “severe housing instability for impoverished tenants.” (4) Although there are about 72,00 subsidized housing units in SC, these only serve 20% of low-income renters. They do not help the remaining 80%. (5) Over 4,000 South Carolinians were counted as experiencing homelessness last January, but the number affected by this homelessness is described as much greater.
How does this affect you, those who have the financial ability to purchase and read The Edgefield Advertiser? Here is another finding. (6) Excessively high housing costs prevent one-third of all SC households, including more than half of all renters, from meeting their most basic needs: food, clothing, and transportation. This so-called “shelter poverty” imposes a cost on the rest of us of $8.4 billion dollars, a cost that is borne by public assistance, private charity, or (as a last resort) personal deprivation.
This study of our own state has several conclusions. One of them is this: “The current policies and resources in place to address the lack of affordable housing are insufficient. Government cannot do this alone, but neither can the private sector.” Stating that more directly, he private sector here in South Carolina cannot fix this problem. The government, at least the current government in our statehouse, is either incapable or not desirous of working with the private sector to fix this problem.
Do you, dear reader, assert that one of your guiding principles is “to love your neighbor as yourself?” What is it that you are doing, or that we should be doing together, to provide adequate shelter to our neighbors? What should we require of our politicians, for them to continue receiving our support at the ballot box?