A long-abandoned affordable-housing program should be revived to offer residents an alternative to mobile homes, a Bluffton town councilman says.
Fred Hamilton believes residents could build homes cheaper and faster if they could use designs such as ones drawn up for six modular cottages the town has planned for an affordable-housing project on Wharf Street.
Hamilton also has directed staff to come up with discounts of town fees associated with building a home. He also wants staff to work with the county to waive or lower impact fees, which are charged on new development to pay for things like roads and library services.
The program also simplifies permitting, he said, much as the plans for the six cottages have already been approved by the Historical Preservation Committee that oversees development in old town Bluffton.
The last attempt at such a program about eight years ago didn't go as planned.
It was intended for landowners who live in mobile homes, but developers ended up taking advantage of the program to build homes cheaply and resell them at a profit. Those homes often did not meet Beaufort County's definition of an affordable home. An affordable home is defined as costing about $120,000, according to Morris Campbell, the county's community services director.
Because of the high cost of land at the time, especially in old town, the Lowcountry-style home designs offered by the town exceeded the affordable standard for residents who didn't own property.
"People were using the process for personal gain when we should have been providing an affordable option," Hamilton said.
Hamilton hopes setting income limits for eligibility -- along with the drop in real estate prices since the program was last tried -- would make it a success.
Members of the town's Affordable Housing Subcommittee have said they want to wait until the Wharf Street project is completed before considering Hamilton's proposal. The project's groundbreaking is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 3 at the corner of Wharf and Robertson streets, where the six cottages will be assembled.
Beaufort Construction, the company building and assembling the modular cottages, has a contract for $529,000. The $1 million project is funded mainly by grants.
Marc Olrando, the assistant town manager for growth management, said staff will draw up a draft of Hamilton's proposal within the next two months for Town Council to consider.
"These would be well-built homes that build equity in years to come versus mobile homes, which decline in value," Hamilton said.
Follow staff writer Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.