Bluffton mayor: Pick Wharf Street applicants quickly

cconley@islandpacket.comOctober 2, 2012 

All but one of the Wharf Street homes has sold, and the last one is under contract.

JAY KARR/STAFF PHOTO

  • Town gets home-repair grant

    Bluffton has received a $142,000 grant from the Lowcountry Council of Governments to bring rundown houses up to code. The two-year grant, funded through the federal HOME program, offers up to $25,000 per home for repairs.

    The town also has a similar repair program with a budget of $50,000. Town staff proposed contracting with the Council of Governments to administer that program, along with the $142,000 grant. Although it could cost money to outsource the program -- leaving less money to help local homeowners -- town staff would be freed up to focus on other matters, according to the recommendation. The Bluffton Affordable Housing Committee did not vote on the proposal.

Mayor Lisa Sulka wants the town of Bluffton to approve applicants for its six Wharf Street affordable homes as quickly as possible -- even if that means holding the required "lottery" for just one applicant.

Speaking at Tuesday's Affordable Housing Committee meeting, Sulka said the town should do whatever is necessary to speed up the process from application to closing.

"Today we have an applicant, but we can't make it official until we have a lottery," said Sulka, who is a real estate agent. "And in another two or three weeks (of waiting for the lottery), we might lose them. Why aren't we just going on and putting them in a house?

"We need to get on this. A week delay in a buyer's mind is a year."

The town has adopted rules for vetting Wharf Street applicants and for how those who are approved can select a home. That process requires all six of the homes to be chosen through a lottery, said Marc Orlando, the town's growth management director.

Prospective buyers' applications cannot be submitted to the S.C. Housing Finance and Development Authority, which helped fund the $1.2 million project, for final approval until after they have selected a home.

Sulka's comments came after town officials acknowledged one of three prospective buyers who had already selected a home in the August lottery has dropped out. The former candidate offered no reason for the decision, Orlando said.

However, another prospective buyer submitted paperwork and a mortgage preapproval this week. Town officials are hoping to schedule a lottery within the next two weeks to move that candidate closer to closing.

Based on the current timetable, the town expects the first home in the Old Town development to sell within eight weeks. The town had initially hoped to have some sold by July.

The town originally had 58 applicants, although most withdrew from the mandatory approval process, which included background checks, credit checks and a first-time homebuyer course. Applicants also must secure mortgage preapproval.

To qualify, a single person's income cannot exceed $39,100 a year. A family of six cannot earn more than $64,800 to be eligible. Prices for the homes still haven't been finalized, although an appraisal did establish a range for each home. The homes' appraised values range from $90,000 to $190,000; their asking prices are expected to range from $60,000 to $150,000.

Related content

  1. Bluffton would be required to rent unsold homes in Wharf Street project, Sept. 11, 2012
  2. Lottery picks 3 applicants for Bluffton's Wharf St. homes, Aug. 30, 2012
  3. Bluffton estimates sale-price ranges for Wharf Street homes, Aug. 8, 2012

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