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​Strengthening Core Neighborhoods Improves Economic Development 

The residents of the City of Florence had spoken: They wanted well-designed and maintained neighborhoods close to the city’s downtown. It was important to recruit and retain employers, to expand on recent successes in downtown revitalization and to provide appealing housing choices for residents, regardless of their finances. Since there was limited interest by private sector developers  to invest in struggling neighborhoods, city leaders stepped up to improve the quality of housing and establish a market for private investment.

City officials hired a consultant, tapped into S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority and other sources, and partnered with banks to offer special mortgage financing to buyers and to host credit counseling and home buying classes. The intent was to create new housing infrastructure to bring old neighborhoods back to their vibrancy of 50 years ago. 

Officials identified three historically significant neighborhoods located near the city’s redeveloped downtown and then funded street infrastructure and housing development programs using capital project sales tax proceeds. A combination of general fund dollars and a federal Neighborhood Program Grant allowed the city to purchase vacant lots and abandoned structures.

The city sought to reinvest near other public improvements, creating linkages to broader areas. Improvements included street infrastructure and adjacent parks or public areas. The city then built houses above the current market conditions. 

To help prospective buyers, the city has also offered gap financing in the form of down payment assistance of up to 20 percent of the value of the house. 

As part of the plan, the city demolished 20 abandoned houses, purchased 53 others, completed seven street or infrastructure improvements in three designated neighborhoods, and built three homes with plans to redevelop another 22 units. Additionally, the city incentivized home building on vacant lots for infill development. The city has already seen private investment in two of the three targeted neighborhoods.

Contact Drew Griffin at dgriffin@cityofflorence.com or 843.665.3113.