High housing costs in Hilton Head SC push back long-time residents
David Vincent Young’s family has deep 200-year roots on Hilton Head Island. Since Union troops took the island during the Civil War, Chief Gullah’s family has remained. His grandmother, he said, now has 145 grandchildren.
Young’s love for his home island is evident to all who know him, especially those who remember his efforts to help residents affected by Hurricane Matthew. Despite his family’s long legacy and his nearly 40 years of living in Hilton Head itself, rising housing costs eventually pushed him off the island.
“The last thing anyone wants to do is spend half their income each month on rent,” Young said.
Young and his girlfriend, Darcie Jones — who herself has lived in Hilton Head for about 20 years — recently purchased a home in Pineland, South Carolina, more than an hour away. The newly built home includes about 4 acres of farmland, where Jones and Young said they hope to raise pigs and chickens.
More importantly, they buy everything for a fraction of what they would pay to rent a much smaller apartment in Hilton Head.
“I’m buying the place for less than I would rent in Hilton Head,” he said. “We watched and watched (to stay on the island) but ultimately it’s the choice of, do you want to spend $2,600 just to live in one place or pay a third of that and have the life you want ?”
The island’s housing struggle has had a disproportionate impact on low-income residents, including the 300 Hispanic residents suddenly evicted from Chimney Cove this month. The apartment complex is occupied almost exclusively by island workers. The landlord said he was selling to a company that plans to refurbish the apartments and charge more rent.
The City of Hilton Head released a statement on Friday acknowledging the evictions and inviting islanders to a special meeting of city council on Sept. 6 to “consider short- and long-term solutions.”
Young and Jones said their situation shows that even residents with relatively higher incomes are being pushed out of Hilton Head. Together, Jones said she and Young make about $175,000 a year.
Jones said they were forced to move out of their old Colonnade Club apartment in Shipyard Plantation because the landlord wanted to use the property as a short-term rental instead. They had been paying about $1,500 a month for several years with no increase.
When the landlord first told them about his plan, Young said he offered to pay more rent, but she refused.
“Everyone is chasing those tourist dollars,” Young said. “The place will be empty for three months, but everyone would rather get $1,500 a week than $1,500 a month rent.”
During their search for new accommodation around the island, the couple soon realized that staying in Hilton Head wasn’t worth it. Even in nearby communities like Bluffton, Jones said prices were way above what she was willing to pay.
“Even in Bluffton, we would pay over $1,000 each a month for a cardboard box,” Jones said. “These options were so small. I have two dogs and I want the dogs to be happy too so I’d rather have them run around in a big four acre garden than lock them in an apartment complex for money I don’t want spend.
One of the few places the couple could find in Hilton Head was a two-bedroom apartment at Summer House, a property on Marshland Road. Young said they had paid the application fee and were ready to move forward with the rental, but the landlord later informed them that they had been entered into a pool of candidates to bid against others. tenants.
“It wasn’t disclosed at first,” Young said.
The monthly rent compounded by application fees, credit checks, utilities, cable and internet costs eventually amounted to so much money each month that the couple gave up on staying on the island. .
Pressure from some landlords to only serve tourists is short-sighted, Young said. As more and more residents are off the island, there will be fewer services left for long-term tourists.
“You want to cater to the needs of tourists, but you push away locals who help serve tourists,” Young said. “So these are the same people who are going after tourists’ money pushing their own workers, and then people are getting annoyed that they have to pay workers more because there aren’t enough (employees ).”
Frequent to see friends moving away
Both Young and Jones said that over time it has become more common to see friends leave the island for a better quality of life elsewhere. Now that he’s left Hilton Head, Young has also started working off-island as an executive chef at Oldfield Golf Club in Okatie.
As a bar manager at the Harbor Town Yacht Club in Hilton Head, Jones said she loved her job too much to leave. Now she is making the one-hour trip one way, but said the loss of service workers like her and Young, and due to housing costs, will overtake the island if no action is taken.
“Anyone who likes those luxury things, like going to restaurants or getting their nails done, getting their car fixed, or as a bartender, getting their drinks, you won’t be able to do that once there’s will have more room for workers,” Jones said.
Tax incentives from the city of Hilton Head could be a way to convince landlords to rent long-term rather than short-term, Young said. A regulation on the amount of rent that can be charged or its increase over a certain period of time could be another step.
“There has to be some kind of advocacy for people here,” Young said.
The city has recognized the need for city-supported housing initiatives. City Manager Marc Orlando said Hilton Head was selecting a company to carry out a public-private partnership to build workforce housing on the north end of the island, but building those units won’t start until 2023. Details such as who would be eligible for housing are still up in the air.
On January 1, the city short term rental order will also come into effect. The law aims to regulate short-term rentals in Hilton Head by requiring landlords to purchase a permit for each short-term rental they rent each year, and setting rules for renters for things like parking and parking. noise.
If housing on the island continues on its current streak, Young said, the people and culture that set Hilton Head apart won’t survive the profit rush.
“My family has been here for 250 years, so I guess (newcomers to Hilton Head) don’t have the same view and feel of the island as I do,” he said. “You erase all of the mystique of Hilton Head by not embracing the culture and the people that make the island work.”