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October 19, 2014

After fifty years of being a white-turned-black neighborhood, the residential area of downtown Charleston, SC is turning white again.

White investors are snatching up low-cost houses in a black Charleston neighborhood and flipping them. The news residents are usually white and that worries some black property owners.

The incursion of white moms with strollers translates into higher property values and a subsequent increase in property taxes. That bodes well for the city's bank account, but leaves cash-strapped neighbors perplexed: The whiter the upper peninsula neighborhood becomes, the greater the financial stress on those barely making ends meet.

The resolution for many blacks is to downsize by selling their homes to white investors. That, of course, only exasperates the problem.

No one is asking, of course, why gentrification always leads to higher property values.
Downtown Charleston's relatively small number of homeowners - particularly longtime owners in the upper peninsula, who tend to be black - are solicited with real estate offers so frequently that some feel they are being pressured to move.

"Don't you ever come on my porch again or I'll call the police," Hampton Park Terrace resident Lesheia Oubre told one man who walked up to her front door with a note offering to buy her house.

Robert Mitchell, a black North Central resident who owns a house on King Street near Huger Street and serves on Charleston City Council, said he's advised constituents to post "no trespassing" signs.

"The people buying these houses are buying them as investments," said Mitchell. "They are coming to people who have had their homes for a while, and in these communities, those are African-American people."

Mitchell said his family sold his late father's property near Rutledge and Line streets to a cash buyer, who fixed it up and resold it. But Mitchell has no plan to sell his own house.

"The only reason I am still here is I bought this house in 1985," said Mitchell. "I get three calls a week from people asking to buy my house."

Around Hampton Park, strong demand for homes drove up the median sale price by $50,000 in just the past year.

"That neighborhood, it is on fire," said Carolina One Realtor Stephanie Wilson-Hartzog, who lives in Wagener Terrace. "It is back, and everyone wants to be there again."
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Image credit: abcnews4.com

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