Affordable cottages arrive in old town

astice@islandpacket.comNovember 3, 2011 

In this file photo, R.K. Manis, a truck driver with Manis Custom Builders, stretches his legs after delivering part of the first affordable housing project home to its future location at Robertson and Wharf Street in Bluffton.

SARAH WELLIVER

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Don't call it affordable housing.

Bluffton's project to bring six small cottages to old town needs a rebranding, according to a local designer involved with the project.

"It's the redevelopment of a blighted area," said Randolph Stewart of Bluffton-based R Stewart Design.

Stewart designed two of the modular cottages that will arrive at the half-acre site on the corner of Wharf and Robertson streets over the next two weeks from a factory in North Carolina.

The cottages range from about 400 square feet to about 1,400 square feet and will be sold to residents who make 80 percent or less of the county's median income -- $38,600 for one person to $63,950 for a family of six.

Stewart said residents who have opposed the project envision a low-income housing project and the crime that can come with it.

He said the cottages, which meet old-town architectural standards, replaced two decrepit buildings that were demolished.

"Let's talk about the single mom who is a teacher," Stewart said. "Let's talk about a police officer. Those are the sorts of people who can afford to live there."

Karen Lavery, a candidate for Bluffton Town Council on Nov. 8, wouldn't call it affordable housing, either -- but for different reasons.

The project costs more than $1 million. It is funded mostly by a federal grant for neighborhood stabilization and another from the Lowcountry Council of Governments. The town will reinvest more than $200,000 from the sale of the homes to round out the costs and is contributing an additional $11,500.

Although the town has not set the price of the homes, it expects they will be sold at a loss in order to put the price within reach of the families being targeted.

"I'm a proponent of affordable housing," Lavery said. "But I just can't wrap my arms around it being so expensive."

The project pitted the two incumbents, Fred Hamilton and Allyne Mitchell, against challengers Lavery and Ted Huffman at a candidates forum Wednesday night.

Hamilton refers to the project by its formal name, the Wharf Street Redevelopment Project. He pointed to the rain barrels and rain gardens, native plants and porches that will be added to the home site through December.

"We got rid of an eyesore and put in something sustainable," Hamilton said. "This is homeownership, this is the American dream."

Huffman, however, said the town should not be in the affordable housing business.

Thomas O'Brien, a Bluffton area resident who attended the forum, agreed with the criticism.

"The worst thing about it is they're competing with private enterprise," O'Brien said.

Critics like O'Brien are part of a "vocal minority," Hamilton said.

Applications for homeowners interested in buying one of the six cottages were released last week. They are available at the Bluffton Library, the Law Enforcement Center and Town Hall, as well as the town's website, ww.townofbluffton.sc.gov.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content

  1. Bluffton Town Council candidates pledge support for May River, disagree on affordable housing, Nov. 2, 2011
  2. Beaufort, Port Royal affordable housing venture advances, Sept. 16, 2011
  3. Bluffton council to vote on homebuyer policy, Sept. 8, 2011
  4. Bluffton discusses how to select homeowners, subsidize affordable housing project, Aug. 11, 2011
  5. Bluffton Historic Preservation Commission OKs affordable housing nits, March 3, 2010

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