Affordable housing project nearing completion

astice@islandpacket.comDecember 19, 2011 

The finishing touches on six cottages in old town Bluffton that are part of an affordable housing initiative are nearly complete, and prospective homeowners should be able to tour the homes in January, town officials say.

The modular homes on the corner of Wharf and Robertson streets, a $1 million project funded mostly by grants, are currently being marketed to local low- and medium-income families who will buy them from the town of Bluffton.

On Friday, about 100 employees from The Greenery, a Hilton Head Island landscaping company of which Hilton Head Town Councilman Lee Edwards is president and CEO, spent the morning planting rain gardens and creating pervious pathways -- all for free.

Edwards said instead of writing a check to a charitable organization, as the company usually does, The Greenery decided to donate labor and plants to the project.

The federal grant funding most of the project is intended to stabilize neighborhoods, and Edwards said the affordable housing project is doing just that. The cottages replaced two decrepit buildings that were demolished on site, and he said neighbors spoke to him and his crew about their plans for beautifying their own homes and gardens.

"The whole idea was to revitalize the neighborhood," he said.

The town has received about 20 applications from potential homeowners, Bluffton Growth Management director Marc Orlando said.

To be eligible, applicants must be first-time homebuyers who make no more than 80 percent of the county's median income, which ranges from $38,600 for one person to $63,950 for a family of six. Applicants must also complete a homebuyer-education course and have a credit score that would allow them to qualify for a loan to buy the cottage they are interested in.

Based on the cost of construction, the cottages will likely already cost more than a low- to medium-income family can afford when they are built, town officials have said.

As a result, the town will hold a "soft, second mortgage," using grants to cover the difference between the cost of construction and the price of the home. It would be forgiven at 20 percent a year after the homeowner has lived in the cottage for five years.

If the resident resells the home before the loan has been forgiven, he or she would owe the balance to the town.

The project is funded mostly by grants from the federal government and the Lowcountry Council of Governments, with the town contributing about $11,600. However, the town must net $202,800 from selling the six homes to cover remaining costs.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content:

Affordable cottages arrive in old town, Nov. 3, 2011

Bluffton Town Council candidates pledge support for May River, disagree on affordable housing, Nov. 2, 2011 Bluffton council to vote on homebuyer policy, Sept. 8. 2011

Bluffton discusses how to select homeowners, subsidize affordable housing project, Aug. 11, 2011

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