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‘A lot of young people are leaving’: MB wants to bring jobs, affordable housing to city

Contractors work on the roof of one of the many new homes being built in the Emmens Preserve in The Market Common area of Myrtle Beach.
Contractors work on the roof of one of the many new homes being built in the Emmens Preserve in The Market Common area of Myrtle Beach. jlee@thesunnews.com

Myrtle Beach officials are working to make the city more attractive to middle and working class people.

During Tuesday’s city council retreat, members considered bringing workforce housing to the area, with the idea of having people live and work in city limits.

Workforce housing is aimed at people making about 60 percent of an area’s medium income. In Myrtle Beach, most of the new single-family homes pertain to the upper class, Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen said.

The goal is to fill the gap between the upper- and lower-class residences and to attract young, working-class adults ranging from police officers to teachers, encouraging them to live in the city where they work.

“Our working-class folks have struggled,” councilman Phil Render said. “We need to strike a balance here, and this is an effort to strike that balance and provide some equity.”

By incentivizing construction to private developers and establishing development loan and grant programs, the work could have little cost for the city.

Bruce Boulineau, assistant city manager, suggested creating a workforce housing commission, which would establish a loan program and possibly purchase property where the housing could be built.

“It could be anywhere,” Pedersen said. “It could be a specific place, it could be some sort of grant program. It could take a number of different forms, but whatever that form is, the goal is to be able to make it affordable for the working people.”

But attracting a younger crowd to live in Myrtle Beach means you need better paying jobs as a result of economic development.

On Wednesday, council members discussed ways to grow the local economy.

“I think [economic development] has to be important to us,” Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said. “We’re kind of locked into the kind of industries we have, and tourism is our industry.”

Bethune suggested focusing on the medical industry, which will pertain to retirees living in the area and draw younger employees.

Other suggestions focused on bringing the technology industry to Myrtle Beach.

To help grow economic development, council discussed bringing someone in to help give direction, and opening discussions with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

“A lot of the young people are leaving,” Render said. “And that’s who we need to try and attract, and you do that by jobs.”

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