Bluffton committee approves plan to offer modular homes, financial assistance

mmcnab@islandpacket.comJuly 1, 2014 

A Bluffton committee unanimously backed a plan Tuesday to help rid the town of old mobile homes by offering modular ones to residents and as much as $10,000 to help them qualify to buy them.

The proposal now goes to Bluffton Town Council for review.

The plan would offer designs for 24 modular-home models to residents and developers for assembly on vacant property or to replace mobile homes. Modular homes are prefabricated and typically assembled on site in sections.

The Affordable Housing Committee also hopes to offer financial aid to 10 residents to build modular homes in the next fiscal year, which began Tuesday, committee chairman Fred Hamilton said.

They would be built by Nationwide Homes and Crestline Homes, according to Shawn Leininger, town assistant director of growth management. The homes range from one to four bedrooms and cost $80,000 to $270,000, Leininger said. The two Virginia-based companies worked with the town during the Wharf Street Redevelopment Project in which six modular homes were built, he said.

Residents or developers would pay the town a fee for the designs. The town plans to offer $5,000 grants toward the purchase of the home; as much as $1,750 toward engineering, design, and site plans; and as much as $3,000 for the removal of an old mobile home on the property, Leininger said.

Additional assistance, such as homebuyer education and fee waivers for water and sewer service, might also be available, he added.

To qualify, the homeowner could make no more than 120 percent of the area's annual median income, which is $76,100 for a family of four, Leininger said.

The committee has $83,901 allotted to cover the financial assistance -- $30,000 from the general fund and the remainder from profits from the town's sale of Wharf Street Redevelopment Project homes, Leininger said.

The committee will also look for grants and state and federal funding.

"I'm pleased we have something now that council and the public can review," Hamilton said after the meeting.

Although a modular home costs more than a replacement mobile home, the average monthly cost would be about the same for most of the homes offered, Leininger said. A modular home would require a smaller down payment -- 3.5 percent on a Federal Housing Authority loan, compared to 10 percent on a conventional loan for a mobile home. However, property taxes would rise, because they are based on the value of the home.

The committee also approved an informational booklet to feature all 24 designs and information on the homeowner assistance program, and a flier to spread awareness about the initiative.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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