SC - Here’s why climate change will hit affordable housing the hardest
BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC - There’s no longer a trace that Audrey Hamilton’s great-granddaughter fell through the kitchen floor of her great-grandmother’s mobile home.p
Or that the refrigerator the teen was trying to get to sank below the soggy presswood. Both were swallowed up after the floor had been weighed down and weakened by a leak and trapped moisture. It wasn’t the first — or last — such incident since Hamilton moved in nearly 30 years ago.
Hamilton is one of thousands of people living in affordable housing in Beaufort County whose homes near the coast are being increasingly impacted by climate change. The residents report rotted wood, mold and flooding, which can be directly related to environmental causes.
Whether it be a mansion or a public housing unit, the effects of climate change — stronger storms, higher temperatures, more humidity and others — will impact all coastal homes. But people living in affordable housing, who struggle to find the money to upkeep their homes, are hurt more from the hazards of coastal living because of climate change, experts say.
Affordable housing is a catch-all phrase that includes housing provided by government programs such as Section 8 or public housing. It can also include manufactured homes, tiny-homes or co-living spaces. Affordable housing tenants pay no more than 30% of their gross income for housing costs, including utilities.
It’s critical, experts say, to provide safe, affordable housing, particularly in a county where home prices are high and those who need affordable housing do everything from staffing restaurants to teaching children.
HUMIDITY AND HEAT CLASH
In 1995, Hamilton left Upstate New York for Bluffton to retire to the southern heat and humidity she craved.
She found a mobile home in her budget. It was a 10-minute walk to the May River, and her church was close. For a while, the affordable slice of paradise was just that. But about a decade later, the combination of water, moisture and humidity buckled parts of the living room flooring.
“I wasn’t even finished paying for (the home), and there were holes in the floor,” Hamilton, 85, said.
She couldn’t afford the cost of the first repair. Today, she can’t afford to fix the most recent puncture, a couch leg that pierced her bedroom floor. It’s been nearly 20 years of working with The Deep Well Project – a Hilton Hilton-based nonprofit – to patch the damages caused by leaks, humidity and water damage.