After a slow start, sales in Bluffton's Wharf Street affordable housing development have accelerated in the past six months.
Five of the six homes in the $1.2 million project have already sold, and the last available property -- a two-bedroom at 48 Wharf Street -- is under contract and due to close next month.
Despite persistent skepticism and criticism that the town was ill-prepared to carry out the housing project, local officials are now feeling vindicated.
"This project, which was a partnership among state and federal agencies, took patience, perseverance and a lot of paperwork," Mayor Lisa Sulka said in a statement. "Despite the challenges, we are now on the opposite side of this equation with a beautiful neighborhood which replaced abandoned structures in disrepair."
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The town also has recouped its $338,000 investment in the development, located on the edge of Old Town on Wharf and Robertson streets. Some $50,000 in additional proceeds has been set aside for other housing initiatives.
Most of the project funding came from federal grants, including $737,000 from the 2010 federal stimulus program. Another $150,000 came from a federal HOME grant.
Last week, the town collected its second statewide award for the project, this time from the S.C. Municipal Association. Last year, the project was recognized by the South Carolina State Housing, Finance and Development Authority.
Now, town officials say officials from other parts of the state are curious about the project and might try to emulate it. To that end, state Rep. Robert Brown, D-Hollywood, is scheduled to visit Bluffton Friday for a tour of the development.
"We have a Town Council which has a comfort level in risk-taking," Sulka said. "It brings enormous pride to our town when an innovative vision becomes reality and our reality becomes a template to other towns to creatively solve multiple issues."
About 70 people have applied to live in the homes, which range from 330-square-feet for a one bedroom shotgun-style house to a three-bedroom house with 1,155 square feet.
Eligibility was based on income. For instance, a single person's income cannot exceed $39,100 a year to qualify, and a family of six cannot earn more than $64,800.
Applicants also must complete a mandatory first-time home-buyer course and pass background and credit checks.
Sale prices for the properties have ranged from $32,000 for the one-bedroom to $92,000 for one of the three three-bedroom homes.
Sale prices are based on numerous factors, including the buyer's income and ability to qualify for a mortgage.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.