One house at a time: Beaufort Memorial to address affordable housing needs for its workers

To combat a high cost of living and better attract workers, Beaufort Memorial Hospital may be renting a house on property from Beaufort County to provide an affordable housing option.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital CEO Russell Baxley says the area’s high housing costs have been the biggest deterrent for potential new employees.

“We have seen the cost of living in Beaufort skyrocket and it was barely affordable, you know, before the pandemic and now it is definitely unaffordable post pandemic,” said Baxley “And so that puts us, as an employer or any employer in the area, at a significant disadvantage when trying to recruit and relocate to the area.”

The house is one of many on land the county purchased in 2022 with the intent of creating workforce housing.

County Councilman Logan Cunningham, who chairs the Beaufort County Public Facilities and Safety Committee, supports the proposal as a temporary solution, calling it a Band-Aid, but thinks in principle the county should avoid being a landlord.

However, until a decision can be made about what to do with the entirety of the purchased property, which includes multiple lots and homes, Cunningham would rather not see the property left vacant.

“We can use the property and not let it sit there for the next year or two years while we’re figuring out exactly what direction we’re gonna go in,” he said.

Under the agreement, the hospital would rent the house from the county and sublet it to one of its employees. The property is valued at $1,810 a month, according to the county, but Beaufort Memorial would pay the county just $950 a month.

Cunningham requested that it be added to the contract that Beaufort Memorial cannot charge its tenant more than what is paid to the county. So, the hospital would have to operate at net-even under the agreement.

Baxley says this first property will act as a trial run of sorts and if successful, Beaufort Memorial may pursue renting the other houses on the property as well. This is a small step toward the ultimate goal of securing affordable housing for the hospital’s workers, he said.

“One house isn’t really going to make a dent in the overall problem that we have here in Beaufort,” said Baxley. “But, we’ve got to build some momentum. This is a momentum-builder.”

Located at 114 Elliot Street, the 1,450-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home is within walking distance to the hospital.

The proposal was passed unanimously by the Public Facilities and Safety Committee and will be heard by the full County Council during the March 27 meeting.