After a slow start, sales in Bluffton's Wharf Street affordable-housing development have accelerated in the past six months.
Five of the six homes in the $1.2 million project have been sold, and the last one -- a two-bedroom house at 48 Wharf St. -- is under contract and due to close next month.
Despite criticism that the town was ill-prepared to carry out the housing project, local officials say the finished product was worth the effort.
"This project, which was a partnership among state and federal agencies, took patience, perseverance and a lot of paperwork," Mayor Lisa Sulka said in a statement. "Despite the challenges, we are now on the opposite side of this equation with a beautiful neighborhood, which replaced abandoned structures in disrepair."
Most of the project's funding came from federal grants, including $737,000 from the 2010 federal stimulus program. Another $150,000 came from a federal grant.
The town has recouped its $338,000 investment in the development, which is on the edge of Old Town on Wharf and Robertson streets, town officials say. About $50,000 in additional proceeds has been set aside for other housing initiatives.
Earlier this month, the town collected its second statewide award for the project, this time from the S.C. Municipal Association. Last year, the project was recognized by the S.C. State Housing, Finance and Development Authority.
Officials from other parts of the state are curious about the project and might try to emulate it, town officials say. To that end, state Rep. Robert Brown, D-Hollywood, was scheduled to tour of the development Friday.
Still, the project is not without its critics.
Councilwoman Karen Lavery, who opposed the project when she ran for the council in 2011, said she still believes the town shouldn't try to re-create the project elsewhere.
"I have no problem with affordable housing. I used to be executive director for an affordable-housing project. However, what I disagree with is the town running it," she said. "The town really had no business being the contractor and all that stuff."
Lavery added that the town brought in much less money from the home sales than was anticipated. However, she acknowledges the town's proceeds likely will increase once the last home sells.
Bill Roe, another critic of the town's involvement in the development, said its true cost when considering all the staff hours that went into it will never be known.
The appraised values of the homes were not available Friday.
About 70 people applied to live in the homes, which range from 330 square feet for a one-bedroom house to 1,155 square feet for a three-bedroom house. Most applicants eventually dropped out during a review process that included background and credit checks and a mandatory course for first-time home buyers.
Income also was a factor. For instance, a single person's income could not exceed $39,100 a year to qualify, and a family of six couldn't earn more than $64,800 to be eligible.
Sales prices for the properties have ranged from $32,000 for the one-bedroom home to $92,000 for a three-bedroom home.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.