South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Times and Democrat on legislation to support more affordable housing in the state:
Bipartisanship may result in passage of federal legislation that could expand the horizons for more people to have quality and affordable housing.
South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is being joined by a geographically and politically diverse group of senators in sponsoring the HUD Manufactured Housing Modernization Act of 2019, which would ensure that the Department of Housing and Urban Development supports state and local governments wishing to include manufactured housing as an affordable housing solution when applying for federal funding. Along with Scott, the bill is sponsored by Democrats Cortez Masto of Nevada and Tina Smith of Minnesota, and Republicans Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Todd Young of Indiana.
While in the past manufactured housing often has been limited by local governments, the legislation would provide an incentive to take a different approach in a time when manufactured homes are vastly improved over the “mobile homes” of decades past and can provide an affordable option for those struggling to pay for a place to live.
The HUD Manufactured Housing Modernization Act of 2019 would require HUD to issue guidelines for including manufactured housing in state and local governments’ Consolidated Plans, which outline their housing and community development priorities, when applying for HUD funding. The legislation would ensure manufactured housing is considered when jurisdictions develop their housing plans.
The bill is supported by Prosperity Now, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Manufactured Housing Institute and the National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners.
More than 22 million people in the U.S. live in manufactured housing — homes that are built to a federal standard in factories and typically placed on land that the homeowner owns or on rented lots in communities of manufactured homes. In many parts of the U.S., manufactured homes are the least expensive kind of housing available without a government subsidy.
There are 8.5 million manufactured homes in the U.S. That’s nearly 10 percent of the nation’s housing stock, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute. Those who live in manufactured housing have a median household income of just under $30,000 per year.
Manufactured homes can cost half as much per square foot to build as site-built houses, according to U.S. Census data. The cost to buy a manufactured home averages about $70,600 but can be as low as $45,000, while a new single-family site-built home averages $286,000, not including land costs.
Consider that a person working full-time who earns the federal minimum wage can only afford to pay $377 a month on housing, according to National Low Income Housing Coalition. In only 12 counties in the U.S. can that worker afford to pay the rent on a rental home with one bedroom.
Realistically, that means in most parts of the country, workers either pay more than 30% of their income on housing and scrimp on other necessities, or work more than 40 hours a week, or double up with roommates or family members to help pay for their housing.
In South Carolina, manufactured housing is already a key player in the housing equation. It could become more so if the Scott legislation wins approval.
The senator is on target with his assessment: “Manufactured housing is an affordable housing option for . one out of every five families in South Carolina. Ensuring that we keep this important option open to families puts them in a safer position and a path to affordable home ownership.”
The Post and Courier on protecting sea turtles during nesting season:
It’s beach season again, but not just for us humans. We need to share the sand with sea turtles, and that means spreading the word about staying out of their way and not disturbing their nests.
Nesting season got off to a promising and early start with the number of nests along the coast up sharply over a disappointing season last year. But hatchlings, which will soon be breaking out of their shells, still need to make it safely back to the water’s edge for the circle of life to start anew.
So it’s disturbing to hear that wildlife officials have received a flurry of complaints about people interfering with females coming ashore to lay eggs or disturbing nests. The Department of Natural Resources and Folly Beach officials have received dozens of such reports this month alone.
Someone was trying to dig up a nest, according to one report. In another, someone was trying to place a child atop a loggerhead that was trying to make its way back into the ocean, DNR sea turtle specialist Michelle Pate told WCSC-TV.
Under federal law, harassing a sea turtle or disturbing a nest can carry a fine up to $25,000 and up to a year in jail. So if you see something, say something. Violations can be reported to DNR by calling (800) 922-5431.
Keeping trash off the beach and out of the water is also important. Sea turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods. Tragically, once their stomachs are filled with plastic, they can starve.
Artificial lighting can disorient hatchlings making a run for the ocean or mothers looking to nest. So remember to turn off the porch lights if you live, or are renting, along the shore. And leave the flashlights and lanterns at home for nighttime walks on the beach.
Boaters also need to watch out for sea turtles in coastal waters. According to DNR, boat strikes are the leading cause of deaths.
Nesting season officially started May 1 and runs through October. Females can produce up to six nests of as many as 120 eggs each per season, burying their eggs in the dunes or just above the high tide mark. Hatchlings emerge about 60 days later.
A record number of nests for this time of year has already been laid in some spots, like on tourist-dense Hilton Head Island, where a rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was spotted nesting April 25, the same day the first loggerhead was seen nesting on Kiawah Island. State wildlife officials estimate that about 4,300 nests have been established so far, up from last year’s total of about 2,765.
Yes, it’s quite a spectacle to see these gentle giants — loggerheads can grow up to 350 pounds — emerge from the surf. But they see humans as predators. So beachgoers need to give them a wide berth. Children should be warned about digging in the dunes to avoid disturbing nests. And tourists, who may be unfamiliar with sea turtles, might need a Lowcountry lesson about leaving these majestic creatures alone.
The Post and Courier on a national study ranking South Carolina poorly for child well-being:
The best way to make South Carolina prosper — to make it a place our children and grandchildren want to spend their lives, where businesses want to locate and expand and people from other states want to visit and make their own homes — is to make sure that children grow up to be productive citizens.
That’s more likely when children have working parents whose jobs pay enough to provide them with stable homes, good nutrition and medical care, parents who read to them regularly and teach them the soft skills that prepare them to do well in schools that have enough good teachers to provide individual attention and encouragement.
And once again, a respected national report shows how badly we are failing to provide these foundational elements for children.
The annual Kids Count Data Book, released on Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks our state 39th in child well-being, based on 16 measures of economic well-being, education, health and family and community. The report shows that S.C. children are better off than they were in 2010 — with the portion living in poverty dropping from 26 percent to 23 percent in 2017, for example, the number not graduating from high school on time dropping from 26 percent to 16 percent and the number of teen births dropping from 43 per 1,000 to 22. But the portion of 3- and 4-year-olds not in pre-school increased from 50 percent to 53 percent, and the portion of eighth-graders not proficient in math increased from 70 percent to 74 percent.
And once again, there’s that chicken-and egg question: Are children poorly educated because of poverty, or are their parents poor because of their own lack of education? Is the economy struggling in so many communities because of failures in our education system, or are those failures the result of the job market and the parents’ poverty?
The short answer, based on years of research and reams of data and reinforced by the latest Kids Count report, is: Yes.
Whatever the original factor, it occurred so long ago that it hardly matters today. Too many children in too many communities, counties and entire regions of South Carolina are living in a vicious cycle of poor education that begets poverty that begets communitywide economic failure that begets poor education and on and on.
We have to break that cycle by attacking all the causes: By dramatically improving the education we provide to children in all parts of the state, creating an attractive workforce for employers. By taking creative new steps to attract good jobs (or, in some cases, any jobs) to areas that lack them. By providing better job training to adults who were failed by our education system. By intervening earlier to help children whose parents aren’t equipped to prepare them for a lifetime of learning.
Gov. Henry McMaster and state legislators have begun focusing on that “attack all causes” approach, making investments in school infrastructure in the poorest communities a part of economic recruitment efforts, expanding tax credits available for new jobs in those communities and starting work on education improvements statewide. But this is only a beginning.
This year’s modest education reforms haven’t yet passed the Senate. Lawmakers still face the task of overhauling an education funding system that doesn’t always send money where it’s needed the most. And there will be more work after that. It took us generations to get where we are today. It will take years of commitment to get us to that place where all children get an education and support that turns them into productive citizens — and transforms our state into the amazing place it has the potential to be.