Beaufort News

Bluffton kicks off revamped home-repair program

A home-repair program to fix leaky roofs, faulty plumbing and cluttered yards is back in business in Bluffton after a months-long hiatus.

Aimed at homes owned by low- to moderate-income residents, the town's Neighborhood Assistance program also has been expanded.

The program previously was a partnership with Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity and only fixed exterior problems, such as broken screen doors and fences.

After Habitat ended its commitment, the town received more applications for major repairs than it expected -- as well as complaints when those problems weren't addressed.

With $15,000 remaining this year and a $50,000 budget next year, the town will accept bids by the end of the month from contractors to do the repair work, community development director James Mitchell said.

Simmonsville Road resident Jaqueline Frazier was one of several homeowners who applied but had been left in limbo while Bluffton officials revamped the program.

Since the program's resumption, Mitchell has visited her home and town staffers have taken estimates of the damage, she said.

She's now confident the town will stop her leaking roof.

"So far so good, although of course we're hoping it will get fixed before hurricane season comes in," she said.

Mitchell said the town has seven applications under review and 20 that were incomplete because they lacked monthly income information or temporary access agreements. He has since tracked down all the applicants, he said.

To qualify, residents must earn 80 percent or less of the county's average median income, which ranges from $30,750 to $49,200 depending on family size.

Residents can get up to $5,000 worth of free repairs in a fiscal year.

Since its inception two years ago, the program has demolished unsafe structures, pumped out septic tanks and provided home repairs in 52 cases for a total of about $125,000, Mitchell said.

The program also will help with heirs-property title assistance and assigning new addresses in the Buck Island/Simmonsville neighborhood.

The property repairs will "help to increase the quality of life for all residents while creating a safer, more vibrant community," Mitchell said in an email.