Charleston Council Moves Forward on Rental Housing Issue

December 28, 2011

Investigative Reports

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The NerveThe Charleston City Council ignored the decision by the Planning Commission and voted Dec. 20 to allow short-term housing rentals in the city’s commercial-zoned districts.

The issue has been around for a while, though not quite in its present guise.

Presently short-term accommodation rentals (less than 29 days) are limited to such structures as bed-and-breakfast operations in historic areas, and hotels and guest houses in the accommodation overlay.

The new ordinance will be city-wide but will primarily target buildings in Cannonborough/Elliottborough area which lend themselves to rentals. Many of the buildings are rundown and the new ordinance could provide a stimulus for renovation.

Proponents of the amended ordinance cite the need for short-term accommodation in this area because of proximity to hospitals and the College of Charleston.

Parents of college students, and friend and relatives of patients at the hospitals often need short-term accommodation, they say.

The amended ordinance comes with restraints. No more than nine housing units will be allowed in a single structure, all units must have full facilities with no sharing and dedicated parking spaces provided.

No council member voted against the amendment, though Gary White Jr. abstained. He was not opposed but wanted more time to study the ramifications.

White and some other members wondered whether there could be an unintended adverse impact in other parts of the city, say, in West Ashley, along Highway 17, or Ansonborough on the Peninsula.

Mayor Joe Riley said that if there were a potential adverse impact, the city could amend the ordinance to cover only the Cannonborough/Elliottborough area.