Call it growing pains: one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, Greenville, South Carolina is enjoying tremendous popularity as a place to live and establish a business, but is challenged as it tries to keep pace with housing and infrastructure demands. Seeking insights into voter attitudes on a range of growth-related issues, the Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS® turned to the REALTOR® Party’s State and Local Growth Polling Program. The results they received – some expected and some eye-opening – have secured them a seat at the table as the city enters a season of major policy discussions.
GGAR Government Affairs Director Chris Bailey explains that South Carolina prides itself on being a business-friendly, low-tax state – but that comes with a cost: “The gas tax here is the lowest in the south, yet we’re struggling to find ways to fund infrastructure. Back in 2016, Greenville County went for too-big-a-bite of the apple when it attempted to pass a penny sales tax that would have generated about $1B; it was going to fix everything over the course of eight or nine years… except it didn’t.” The proposal failed badly at the polls, and meanwhile, the region’s infrastructure needs are only becoming more urgent.
“We applied for the REALTOR® Party poll to help us better understand and advocate for land use, transportation, and infrastructure policies in Greenville County,” continues Bailey. “Funding for these areas is nowhere near adequate, and, facing an imminent re-write of the County’s land use and infrastructure plans, our effectiveness this time around is going to depend on our understanding of voter sentiment.”
The poll was conducted by American Strategies, the REALTOR® Party’s go-to firm for polling and statistics projects. Surveying the most likely voters in Greenville County over the course of a few days in June 2022, it yielded rich results. Says Bailey, “I’m not an expert at polling or marketing, and the team took the time to explain not only the numbers, but also the implications.” He reports being shocked by two of the findings: “First, 65% of the population polled thinks there’s enough housing choice already, though we know the exact opposite is true. And second, over half of the voters polled did not believe that increasing housing production brings down prices.” It was also revealed that, to support infrastructure costs, impact fees charged to developers are widely preferred to a broad-base tax, even though they are a pass-through expense that is ultimately shouldered by the housing consumer, as opposed to a penny-tax on gas, which would be shared by a broad base of the population. Data-based revelations like these, in addition to a deep breakdown of responses by demographic, showed the REALTORS® exactly where and how the county could be spending its resources most effectively, as it seeks to educate and persuade the voting public prior to the 2024 election – “The next year big enough to try again,” notes Bailey.
Beyond the data-rich results of the poll, itself, the effort has yielded the parallel benefit of positioning the REALTORS® as essential partners in high-level policy discussions as Greenville County navigates the major issues facing the region. “The poll definitely generated some buzz amongst other stakeholders, as well as local government. We’re sensing a ‘Let’s get with the REALTORS®; they have helpful information’ attitude as we’re invited to more policy discussions and committee meetings with transit non-profits and conservation groups,” reports Bailey.
“NAR has some really effective weaponry – I mean ‘resources’!” he continues. “The polling program has not only helped us to refine our approach to crafting policy, and strengthen our role in the community, but our members are using the big-picture slides we’ve created from the data for sales meetings. They understand that these grants are a real instance of their membership dues coming back to Greenville, and that’s a big benefit.”
To learn more about how the Greater Greenville Association of REALTORS® has been earning its seat at the table when it comes to growth-related issues in the region, contact Government Affairs Director Chris Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 864.992.1953.