Tybee Island city council to discuss funding study for workforce housing

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 3:46 PM EST
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - A lot of people who work on Tybee Island can’t live there, so they commute on and off the island every day. Workforce housing has been a topic of discussion among city members for years.

The city said they applied for a grant through UGA to fund a study that would help them determine how they can provide more workforce housing, but they didn’t get the grant.

So, now it’s up to the city to fund this study that councilmember Brian West says they need to move this idea forward.

Tonight, West says they’re asking the city if they can fund it.

“We have a need for workforce housing down here, but the island’s full,” said Councilmember West.

City Councilmember Brian West says many people who work on the island can’t live here for two reasons. Either they can’t afford it…

“I was looking at a small efficiency apartment and it’s like maybe 13ft by 20 and it was astronomical, the price,” said April White, an employee with Tybee Beach Vacation Rentals.

…or they can’t find it.

“We have to build above the flood zone and below the building height and so there’s not space to add more houses. How do we go about converting existing homes or existing areas, lots whatever, into areas we can use for workforce housing and that’s where the study comes in,” said Councilmember West.

West says the study would bring in people who examine cities around the country. They look at things like the housing capacity and what the city can do to fix it.

He says at the council meeting they will be asking the city to fund the roughly $20,000 study that the grant would’ve funded.

“We already know, though, that we don’t have a lot of the services that young families or workforce families would need. There’s no childcare down here, there’s no daycare, there’s no preschool.”

West says even if the city can provide more housing in the future, they need to also be able to offer services like these. He says this is what he and other council members and business owners are already looking into while they wait for the study to take place.

“To drive in and drop a child off at daycare and drive back to work, people would rather just not live here.”

April White works as a reservationist and does IT work at Tybee Beach Vacation Rentals. She says she’s glad the city is considering options because she wants to live on the island.

She says it would allow her to be more efficient at her job.

“I do a lot of the technical work with the digital locks, the thermostats. Things always go wrong and people need help with those kinds of things.”

When asked, “Ya, so if you were here you could be over there in a minute.” White said, “in a minute.”

White is certainly not alone. West says while he can’t put a number on it, the number of people who work on the island and live here too is very small.

This conversation will be happening tonight at the public safety building at 6:30.