The Town of Bluffton's Affordable Housing Program is administered through the Growth Management Department and the Planning & Community Development Division, with an approved budget by Town Council.
This past fiscal year, (July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017), the program assisted 14 families.
The assistance included a road repair to allow for the access of emergency vehicles (police, fire and emergency medical services) and a new road sign, so that emergency vehicles and others could accurately locate the home.
Other services included roof repairs, flooring, electrical repairs, septic tank pump outs, and window and wall repairs needed in order to keep the homes safe and dry. Approximately $80,000 of the budget was spent to assist families with housing needs and whose income qualified them for the program.
To qualify for assistance, applicants must have an income that does not exceed 60 percent of the area median income for Beaufort County. For example, a gross income of less than $40,260 for a family of four would qualify for this program.
After Hurricane Matthew landed in the Lowcountry, town staff assisted homeowners in need by helping them complete FEMA applications. They coordinated transportation with Palmetto Breeze for homeowners to attend regional informational meetings. They also were matchmakers for homeowners and contractors to provide services, materials, and even temporary housing.
The program continues to evolve with an increased variety of specific programs and opportunities for assistance. The current program includes four categories: home repair and rehabilitation; affordable and workforce housing programs; property maintenance; and planning, education, and advocacy.
There are opportunities and funding to continue to repair homes to keep them safe and dry, post addresses, fix streets, demolition and cleanup of unwanted structures, and septic tank pump outs and repairs.
There are also incentives for developers to construct workforce and affordable housing.
Information is now available on the Town's website on the specific programs, qualifications and application procedures. The Affordable Housing Committee (AHC), town leaders and staff continue to look for ways to expand the program to meet the needs of the communities.
Recently, members of Town Council and Town staff met with town staff and leaders from Davidson, N.C., to discuss their programs and success stories. They shared their experiences, specific programs, partnerships, and showed us firsthand the finished products. Partnerships between other communities, with developers, and community organizations and leaders are important in building and strengthening a successful program.
The Town's Affordable Housing Committee meets monthly to discuss current applications and the future of the program.
For more information on the AHC, please contact Brad Mole, Community-Business Development Coordinator, at 843-706-7818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton.