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Tight pandemic-era housing market challenging those seeking affordable homes

The lack of affordable housing has long been an issue for renters and home buyers. A tightened pandemic-era supply is complicating the path to ownership.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Searching for a new home? The price may surprise you.

Realtor.com economists anticipate a 12 percent increase in home costs this year.

The rising price tag, especially challenging for those looking for affordable homes.

“The state and federal guidelines basically say that spending less than 30 percent of your take-home pay is affordable," Chris Winston with the SC State Housing Finance and Development Authority said. "We know across the state there are challenges because there’s a lack of inventory. There just aren’t enough affordable houses, whether that’s apartments or homes.”

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The pandemic is adding to the challenge with high demand and fewer listings, says Morris Lyles, a real estate broker and head of the SC Realtors.

"I’ve had one house listed and we had 19 offers on it and I literally put them all on my floor here in my office and was trying to sort through them," Lyles said.

The lack of inventory is driving up prices, according to Winston.

"So, the more and more expensive the housing becomes, the more of a challenge it is for many families, who are working families who are still trying to make ends meet, to afford where they live," Winston said.

Already, the authority says a third of South Carolina households can't afford basic expenses due to high housing costs.

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The authority does have programs to try to help, including its SC Stay Plus rental assistance program, homebuyer program, and its housing voucher program.

"What you see from our point of view is we recently approved more than $20 million in federal tax credits to encourage developers to build housing for low-income and for older persons," Winston said.

When things will improve long-term is more uncertain, but Realtor.com economists do anticipate the rising cost of homes to slow in the new year.

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