HUD Funding "Running off Blight and Crime in Racepath" Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Racepath is a Horry County community donut hole encircled within Myrtle Beach, S.C. that boasts a proud history and tradition as one of the oldest African-American communities in the County. The community has grown from the hard work of prominent black families who still reside there today – the Hemingways, the Chestnuts, the Bellamys and the Gauses. Many of the founding families originated in other sections of Myrtle Beach and as the beach area developed, these families "had to race over to a new neighborhood," said community leader Rev. William Gause in a recent Myrtle Beach Herald article. "And that's how it got named Racepath."
In the beginning, the families helped each other raise children in the swampy neighborhood. (Old-timers remember their parents using boats or big boards to float home over flooded streets.) The founders were resourceful, raising pigs and chickens in their yards, tending gardens, and fishing to put food on their tables. Today, Racepath residents continue to struggle with poverty and a substandard infrastructure. Most live in the 'old beach shacks' that tourists used when they visited the beach. The homes do not typically have HVAC units and are around 1,000 square feet. Now, the residents are faced with even more challenges -- urban violence and drug dealing have taken over the streets.
In partnership with residents, Horry County's Community Development office, Horry County's Planning Department, and law enforcement agencies developed a Racepath Neighborhood Revitalization Plan. Endorsed by County Council, the plan called for housing rehabilitation, new infrastructure, parks and recreation areas, after-school programs, and much more.
Before picture of old beach shack residence in Racepath
After picture of Racepath residence as a result of Neighborhood Revitalization Plan
To support needs in Racepath and other areas, Horry County Council approved nearly $300,000 in 2013-14 HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for Housing Rehabilitation. Horry County Community Development embarked on an ambitious effort to win the trust of Racepath residents. Partnering with Reverend William Gause and his Phoenix Renaissance LLC, a non-profit, community meetings and training sessions were held on affordable housing programs. Representatives were placed in the community to assist residents with housing rehab applications. The Community Development team even recruited the services of a former HUD regional director to volunteer to train the Phoenix Renaissance board on grant writing and non-profit management and they submitted their first Public Services CDBG grant application on February 7, 2014.
As a result of these efforts, thirteen housing rehab applications were submitted with five qualifying for CDBG funding to date. Remarkably, three housing rehabs are now complete, representing nearly $46,000 in CDBG funds. Two additional rehabs totaling nearly $30,000 in repairs are imminent. HUD HOME funds are used, where needed, in order to complete the housing units. Heirs Property developed a new partnership with SC Legal Services to address deed related issues for residents. Deed issues are the main reasons why Racepath applicants are denied.
Horry County's 2014-15 CDBG Annual Action Plan proposes even more funds for housing rehabilitation and for Racepath infrastructure and drainage plans. Future plans include a new public facility. Change of the magnitude required in Racepath will take years. But like the new road that will soon line Racepath Street, the road ahead for Racepath looks promising and hopeful. And even if the pace slows and change takes longer than planned, Horry County and Community Development benefit from the lessons learned. Horry County staff; including the Planning Department, Community Development, and Engineering, carry the lessons forward as they begin plans for another revitalization area in the County – the Bennett Loop zone.
"We have a repeatable model now for revitalization," says Diana Seydlorsky, Director of Horry County Community Development. "It still enables us to customize to fit the needs of residents in unique areas. Racepath teaches us so much. What we learn there continues to influence our approaches for the next area, Bennett Loop." So the progress begins. "The bad guys have tried to take our neighborhood, but we're still here and we're going to be here until our work is done," said Reverend Gause in a Myrtle Beach Herald article last fall. Reverend Gause now has Horry County on his side to help that dream come true.