Add To Favorites

Myrtle Beach pushing veterans, low-income residents out of affordable housing. Why?

Sun News - 3/22/2023

Mar. 22—Tony Watkins taps his dwindling cigarette on the ashtray, which sits beside scattered medical papers on his bed that spans nearly the width of his apartment bedroom.

The gray-bearded Army veteran and his partner, Ginger Snow, have been living in the downtown Myrtle Beach complex on South Ocean Boulevard for more than a year thanks to rental assistance first from Eastern Carolina Housing Organization and now as recipients of a Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing voucher.

"I love living near the water," Watkins said, as the couple's pit bull-lab mix puppies, service dogs in-training named Mariah and Tony Jr, softly whimper in a nearby crate, ready for their afternoon walk.

"I want to die at the beach," the 60-year-old added, noting that his father died at this age, and he feels that he's "lived his life."

But Watkins may soon be pushed back onto the streets — he was living out of his car before moving into this apartment — after he and the rest of the more than 100 residents living at the Pace View I and II buildings received notices on their doors Friday that they need to be out in 30 days.

The notices aren't due to any fault of the residents — which includes numerous other veterans and low-income families receiving rental assistance — but are rather the result of a push by Myrtle Beach city officials over a business licensing issue.

Long-term rentals with short-term license

The properties previously operated as troubled motels with business licenses to operate as short-term rentals, but new ownership purchased the buildings in November 2021 and converted them into affordable housing units. New ownership and management applied to switch the licenses to long-term use, which is permitted by the area's zoning, but they've been unsuccessful.

The city filed charges against Pace View's management for operating illegally, and a judge last week agreed with them, urging them to remove their tenants immediately and fining them $1,000 for each property, according to online court records.

The properties don't meet building codes for a long-term license, and city officials haven't seen any progress toward hiring an architect or contractor to make major needed improvements, according to city spokesman Mark Kruea, who added another court summons is possible if the illegal operation continues.

"We can't license a property that doesn't meet building and life-safety codes," he wrote in a statement. "That isn't in the public's best interest, including the tenants."

Skyline Asset Management and Consulting, which oversees both facilities, has hired an engineer to make repairs and upgrades to comply with city regulations and codes, according to a statement they submitted to The Sun News, but city officials haven't been responsive in explaining what needs to be done.

"It's no secret that Myrtle Beach is severely lacking in affordable housing options, and here was a solution that could easily help repair the problem," the company wrote. "With that in mind, it's quite shocking that Skyline AMC has been given the run-around by the City of Myrtle Beach since the initial date of purchase.

"... (A)s is often the case when dealing with a municipality, the management company continues to be tossed around from one government division to another like a ping-pong ball, with no one actually taking responsibility or explaining why (we) are still being denied (our) long-term rental license."

The Sun News asked Kruea what specifically needs to changed at the Pace View apartments to qualify for a long-term business license. He first responded that they need to hire an architect and submit a plan, and when asked what would need to be included in that plan, he wrote, "That's what the architect will determine."

Where will the residents go?

Skyline noted in its statement that the buildings' units have been deemed safe and inhabitable by government housing programs, including the Myrtle Beach Housing Authority, which has 31 of its housing voucher recipients at Pace View with yearlong leases, according to Carol McCall, operations manager for the authority.

McCall said MBHA is requesting that the city allow the residents on housing vouchers there be allowed to stay through the end of their leases, and she's concerned they will otherwise end up homeless.

Housing voucher recipients are required to find their own housing, which must fall within an area's fair market value and pass inspection, and McCall said they already have 30 other voucher holders having difficulties looking for places to live.

"(The Myrtle Beach area is) short on units, and prices have gone up astronomically," she said.

James and Leslie Mullins, who just renewed their lease at Pace View II through their voucher in January, said they "lucked into" their apartment, recalling how difficult it was to find a landlord willing to work with the housing authority.

"We're happy, we take care of each other," James Mullins said of the community full of low-income residents. "If the city wants us out, it should be on them to make sure we have somewhere to go."

Kruea wrote that city officials have been encouraging Eastern Carolina Housing Organization to relocate residents of the properties "for a while now."

ECHO is currently providing rental assistance to 17 Pace View residents, including 10 veterans, according to Joey Smoak, the nonprofit's chief executive officer, though many others there could now seek ECHO's help if they're displaced.

Smoak recalled city officials first bringing this potential need to his staff's attention late last year, but nothing was official until this recent court action.

Like McCall, Smoak said a lack of available affordable housing units is a major problem in trying to move these residents, describing the chances of being able to help them all move elsewhere within 30 days as "slim to none." He said he'd also urge city officials to give residents more time

Neither ECHO, nor the Housing Authority of Myrtle Beach was aware the Pace View apartments were only permitted to operate short-term rentals when they placed residents there, according to Smoak and McCall.

Terry Hayes, another Pace View II resident, said he felt the city was targeting the properties because of their historical associations with crime and drugs, instead of seeing that current management and tenants have been cleaning the area up from that past.

The buildings previously operated as motels, including the Rosen Sea Inn and Sea Banks Motor Inn, which were hubs for drug trafficking and prostitution, according to police. The city even filed nuisance orders in 2020 on the Rosen Sea motel to shut it down for a year.

"We're being treated like garbage, put out on the curb for someone to pick us up," Hayes said Monday. "Except no one is going to pick us up."

What does city council think?

Myrtle Beach Councilman Gregg Smith said he'd be in favor of the properties operating as long-term affordable housing, an obvious need in the city, but that the need doesn't mean property owners can skirt the rules.

"It's a tough situation, but I think our officials ... have a duty to make sure properties are used in a safe and habitable manner," Smith told The Sun News. "I feel like (the property owners) were trying to do a good thing, and it would be, but they haven't followed through with what they have to do."

Mayor Brenda Bethune opined that the owners were given multiple opportunities to comply with city regulations, "and they chose not to."

"It isn't fair to the thousands of businesses we have who do comply," she wrote to The Sun News. "We hold all to the same standard and do so to protect our entire community."

Councilman Mike Chestnut declined to comment on the situation, and fellow Councilman John Krajc directed The Sun News to Kruea before not responding to a follow-up message seeking comment. Council members Jackie Hatley, Mike Lowder and Phil Render didn't respond to requests for comment.

Property for sale

The opportunity for the city to work with current building management to permit its operation as affordable housing may soon come to an end, as the properties were listed for sale last week. Myrtle Beach has purchased and demolished several other former motels in recent years, but these properties are outside the city's downtown redevelopment project area, and Kruea said he's not aware of the city having any interest in buying these buildings.

The $15.5 million listing details that the property is currently operating with average rents of $1,161 per month, below market rate for the area, with an opportunity for investors increase their income on each unit to $2,200 per month. The current owner declined to comment for this article.

"The city of Myrtle Beach has a well-known homeless issue. There is a lack of affordable housing. There are people freezing on the streets. There are men, women and children who deserve a roof above their heads, a warm bed at night, and somewhere to spend time with family and friends," Skyline Management wrote in its statement. "Pace View I and II on South Ocean Boulevard can provide this basic necessity to the people who are most in need.

"And, the City of Myrtle Beach is doing everything they can to prevent it. The question is, why?"

This story was originally published March 22, 2023, 7:00 AM.


(c)2023 The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

Visit The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.