Bluffton might be required to rent homes in the Wharf Street affordable housing project if they haven't been sold by late next year, town officials said Tuesday.
Conditions attached to one or more grants that funded the $1.2-million project mandates the six homes be offered as rentals if they are unsold a year after the grant ends, town planner Danny Wilson told Town Council during a council meeting Tuesday night. The deadline to sell is Dec. 31, 2013.
"In case for whatever reason we do not sell the properties, the grant then requires us to then put them on the market for rent," he said.
That requirement might not be enforced if the town has sold most of the homes, he added.
Meanwhile, council authorized town staff to sell the homes and also adopted restrictive covenants governing maintenance and modification standards, owner occupancy rules and a requirement that the homes remain affordable for 25 years.
The covenants also require homeowners insurance and prohibit future owners from renting out the homes. Owners must also agree to annual inspections, including the home's interior, if requested by the town.
The covenants include provisions allowing the town to rent the property if required under terms of the grant. Grant funding for the project came from the S.C. Housing Finance and Development Authority and the Lowcountry Council of Governments as well as the town and private citizens. It's not clear which grant carries the rental requirement.
In any case, town officials view the rental scenario as unlikely.
"That's a last resort," Marc Orlando, the town's growth management director, said after Tuesday's meeting.
Three prospective buyers were selected last month to choose among the six homes in the development, located on Wharf Street in Old Town. At that time, town officials said another lottery might be held later this month to choose buyers for the remaining three homes.
Wilson said Tuesday the buyers already identified are hoping to move quickly, adding that the first home could close in October.
The town initially had 58 applicants for the homes, although most withdrew from the mandatory approval process over the summer.
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. Applicants must also complete a first-time homebuyer course and secure letters of mortgage pre-approval.
Prices for the one, two and three-bedroom homes still have not been finalized.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.