Census and other data indicate that the percentage of Black households in the city of Greenville has declined since 2010. This isn’t just due to growth in the number of white households; the raw number of Black households has declined as well, meaning that Black residents are leaving and their numbers aren’t being replaced by new Black residents.
But there are things we can do, as community members, as voters, as donors and investors. Residents gathered at the Phillis Wheatley Community Center on March 14, 2023 to dive into this data and possible solutions. The session was sponsored by Greater Good Greenville REEM GVL, and two dozen community partners. It included a presentation by Mike Winiski with the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Furman University and a panel discussion led by Meliah Bowers Jefferson with the Jolley Foundation with Mark Fessler with SC Legal Services, Tammie Hoy Hawkins with Together Consulting, neighborhood advocate Veretta Lindsay, and Natasha Pitts with the Greenville Chamber.
Our top five takeaways:
- Black population has dropped in the city of Greenville and has grown in the surrounding area. Housing costs are factors according to the data, and community culture plays a role as well.
- Black households make significantly less than white households, and in some places, Black household income is lower in constant dollars now than it was in 2000. This means that when housing is targeted at a percentage of median income (80% of area median income is often described as “workforce housing”), there are far fewer Black families that can afford this amount than white (see the slides from the presentation and the full storymap from the Shi Institute).
- State law plays a role, including the state disallowing inclusionary zoning, allowing for very easy evictions that stay on tenants’ records, allowing usurious interest rates from predatory title and payday lenders, and prohibiting municipalities from pursuing their own sales taxes for things like affordable housing.
- Local policies can support solutions, including elements in the proposed Greenville Development Code (such as secondary dwelling units and density bonuses for affordable housing) and greater local investments in affordable housing.
- Culture also plays a part, such as whether workplaces are attractive to Black employees and community amenities have things to offer to Black singles and families.
The MAIN takeaway is that EVERYONE has a role to play and that it will take a movement to make changes that support our communities. The website www.greenvillespromise.org was launched during the event as a place where residents can get information on upcoming events, including a GOAL session on 3/28 advocating for affordable housing investments and opportunities to advocate to end predatory lending with a cap on interest rates in the state.
The event was presented by Greater Good Greenville and REEM GVL, in partnership with CommunityWorks, GOAL, Greenville Connects, Greenville Homeless Alliance, Greenville Housing Fund, Habitat for Humanity, Hispanic Alliance, Hollingsworth Funds, Homes of Hope, Impact Greenville, Institute for Child Success, the Jolley Foundation, LiveWell Greenville, Nicholtown Neighborhood Association, Public Education Partners, Rebuild Upstate, Self-Help Credit Union, the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Furman University, Triune Mercy Center, United Ministries, United Way of Greenville County, Upstate Forever, and Urban League of the Upstate.