COLUMBIA, S.C. — When it comes to high rental costs, protections for South Carolinians are limited.
Sue Berkowitz with the Appleseed Legal Justice Center said those in private housing will likely have to pay up or move out.
"Unfortunately, landlords can raise the rent as much as they want to. There's no such thing as rent control in South Carolina. There are definitely no state statutes and there are no ordinances that I'm aware of in any cities or counties that do anything in an attempt to control rents from going up a certain amount," Berkowitz said. "It can't just be done in the middle of a lease term or indiscriminately. It has to be done when your lease expires."
Public housing has a bit more flexibility, she said, with landlords needing to follow income-based programs to raise tenant fees.
Still, the cost of rent is rising.
According to Zumper.com, the average cost of a two bedroom apartment in Columbia is over $1,000, up 10 percent from last year.
Meanwhile, the South Carolina Housing Finance and Development Authority said roughly a third of South Carolinians can't afford basic expenses due to high housing costs.
"We know that South Carolina has incredibly high eviction rates and part of that is because of lack of the lack of affordable housing," Berkowitz said.
MORE Justice is a group of Midlands congregations working to change that.
"An affordable housing trust fund will build new units of private housing," Rev. Caitlyn Darnell, a spokesperson, said. "This is going to help the teachers in our community. This is helping the firefighters.... These are people that are working full time and are still spending more than a third of their monthly income on housing needs."
They're hoping to see Richland County Council put federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) toward the project.
Affordable Housing is also a focus of lawmakers, Berkowitz said.
"People should be advocating, talking to their state level leaders, talking to their local leaders about why are we not putting more resources into affordable housing construction and rehabilitation," Berkowitz.
Richland County Council has said affordable housing is one of its focuses for the roughly $80 million in ARPA funds its expected to receive.
As discussions continue, community members are asked to contact their councilperson to have their say.