Almost a year after construction began, six new houses with spotless siding and gleaming windows along Wharf Street in Old Town Bluffton remain vacant, awaiting residents.
Desirable as they appear, the town's "affordable" homes have attracted almost no applicants in the past three months, and more than two-thirds of the 58 who applied earlier have withdrawn,according to Danny Wilson, a Bluffton town planner.
Buyers were expected to start moving into the Wharf Street Redevelopment Project homes in July, town officials predicted in April. Now officials say lack of interest in the homes will probably push back the move-in date to September or October.
"Only a few applicants have provided a reason for withdrawing and it is typically because they decided not to buy a house at this time," Wilson said.To qualify for the homes, a single person can't make more than $39,100 a year, and income for a family of six can't exceed $64,800. Those caps are based on 80 percent of Beaufort County's median income.
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Applicants must also pass background checks and complete a first-time homebuyer course.
The standards applicants must meet are stipulated by the federal grants that paid for most of the $1.2 million project and are part of the reason for the delay in getting people into the homes, Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said.
"With these federal grants, there's so much paperwork and hoops you have to go through," she said.
She added that fewer local teachers had applied for the homes than she expected.
The six houses range from 330 square feet with one bedroom to 1,115 square feet with three bedrooms. Jasper County Neighbors United, a Hardeeville nonprofit organization that assists first-time homebuyers, has been involved in the project since October. It has offered homebuying courses and interviewed applicants for the Wharf Street homes.
But because there have been so few applicants, Neighbors United has completed just one homebuyer course since last fall, according to an organization employee.