Housing in Rutherford County is a mixed bag of need, shortage of units, aging stock, and local leaders determined to change things for the better.
For better or worse, it will take years to fix.
Luckily the county brags on a board of county commissioners who have made housing a priority, a regional planning commission that is looking for help, hard working builders who employ skilled trades people in every field, and a number of big-hearted nonprofits who understand the need and are on the job working to fix it.
People don't have to drive far to find substandard housing, blight, abandoned houses giving way to kudzu and other vines. Even more discouraging is the fact that when Section 8 recently opened its waiting list for federally subsidized housing, 1300 people applied in four hours. That's one thousand, three hundred families looking for a better place to live.
But the good news is that everybody knows we have a problem; and many elected officials, public employees, nonprofit leaders and builders are working on it.
A report last year from Asheville's T. Ronald Brown: Research And Analysis predicted that the Rutherfordton-Spindale-Forest City area could support 130 new, rent subsidized units; and Lake Lure could fill 60. It's not hard to imagine.
Adequate housing is always a moving target. Rutherford County is seen as a bedroom community for workers employed in Charlotte, Spartanburg and Hendersonville. In addition retirees find the cost of real estate attractive and come here for the cost of living, climate, and local culture.
The county also has a 19 percent poverty rate; and those are the folks who qualify for Section 8 or federally assisted housing. The needs for more housing fall across the board.
There is plenty more data on the current housing initiative at Isothermal Planning And Development's website, https://regionc.org/housing-programs/isothermal-regional-housing-data.
This story about the local housing situation comes at a time when Rutherford Housing Partnership has hired a new executive director. Nell Bovender has been at the helm since 2002 and is best known for her work with the Women Roofers, a group she will continue to lead in retirement.
Melissa Ailiff, who lives in Campobello, SC, and has 15 years experience in working with nonprofits is the new leader. She has been a Peace Corps volunteer and has worked for Habitat in New Jersey and in Henderson County.
"It's super exciting. I am very passionate about affordable housing. Despite the fact that everyone knows there is a need, the problem gets worse and worse every year. It's great that RHP has done a great job over the years; and I'm excited and thrilled about the opportunities," Ailiff said of her new job. "It's an amazing community of support."
Both through RHP and Habitat For Humanity, Rutherford County has made progress over the years and as Ailiff noted, has been, "an amazing community of support."
Now with the work of IPDC and its latest housing initiative hopes are high for more and better.