Bluffton tweaks affordable housing policy

cconley@islandpacket.comApril 10, 2012 

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

Bluffton Town Council on Tuesday approved changes to its Affordable Housing Homeownership Policy that align local procedures with existing practice and state and federal standards.

New wording requires applicants and all adults in the household to submit to criminal and sex offender background checks, in addition to credit checks, to be eligible for the housing. New language also requires all members of an applicant's household to provide documentation showing their U.S. citizenship status.

Although the change adds new wording to the town's policy, the new requirements will not bring substantive changes. In fact, these and other guidelines were already part of the town's standard operating procedure for affordable housing applicants, said Marc Orlando, Bluffton's director of growth management.

"Tonight was just a procedural change. There is no material change to what we are doing," he said.

Town councilors approved the revisions unanimously with no debate.

The policy revision comes as the town continues reviewing about 55 applicants for six homes in the nearly $1 million Wharf Street Redevelopment Project in old town Bluffton. Applicants for those homes, Orlando said, have already been asked to offer various documents including proof of citizenship, proof of residency and tax forms.

Council adopted the homeownership policy in September 2011. Staff later determined that various clarifications were needed, according to a town staff report.

"We realized that as we worked through our standard operating procedures, there were various checks and balances that needed to be added to the policy," Orlando said.

The revisions were developed by town staff and approved by the town's Affordable Housing Committee prior to Tuesday's presentation.

Other changes to the policy added or removed words in several sections. Income-based eligibility standards were not changed.

Potential buyers cannot earn more than 80 percent of the county's median income to qualify. That means a single person cannot earn more than $39,100 a year. A family of four cannot earn more than $55,850.

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