The finishing touches are all that remain for the six new homes in Bluffton's affordable-housing project, but finding people to live in them will take at least four more months.
Project manager Shirley Wilkins told the town's Affordable Housing Committee on Tuesday the homes will be ready by the end of the month, but a lengthy application process will keep them empty until at least July.
"It's a monster, but a monster we have to handle," Wilkins said of the process.
Grants used to pay for the Wharf Street Redevelopment Project in old town require that homebuyers meet local, state and federal government criteria.
For example, potential buyers can earn no more than 80 percent of the county's median annual income, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For a single person, that would be up to $39,100 a year; for a family of four, up to $55,850; and a family of six, up to $64,800.
A town-adopted point system scores applicants on where they live and work. Residents who both live and work in Bluffton receive more points than those who live and work elsewhere in Beaufort County.
So far, 55 applications have been submitted, but town staff expects to lose applicants as demands for paperwork, background checks and required first-time homebuyer classes narrow eligibility.
Those who qualify eventually will be entered into a lottery to choose the buyers of the one- to three-bedroom houses.
"It's the most fair way to do it," town manager Anthony Barrett said.
Growth-management director Marc Orlando said the town will continue to accept applications "until the sixth person fills the sixth house."
HUD would allow residency of no more than two people per bedroom per house. Home prices still need to be determined and covenants created, Wilkins said.
The sale price must be approved by the S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority.
Orlando said a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. March 27 will celebrate the construction's end.
Follow reporter Anne Christnovich on Twitter at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP