Friday, July 14, 2017

Bluffton, South Carolina’s Housing Problem Symptomatic of Bigger Problems Across the US

Every day we hear three things in the news. Russia. Obamacare and Affordable Housing.

I have no opinions to share about the first two but the third hits close to home for many modular and prefab factories and builders.

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Bluffton, SC has high land prices, high cost of living, expensive real estate and also lots of people that need affordable housing.

Bluffton's is a story repeated across the country where cities and towns try incentive after incentive to attract affordable housing only to be met with indifference by developers, builders and even modular factories.

With zoning prohibiting manufactured housing, tiny houses and Auxiliary Housing Units (ADU) with the municipalities, the options are limited.

Here is the problem explained in the July 13th edition of the ‘The Island Packet’:

Bluffton’s housing crunch: We know what doesn’t work. The question is what will?

As Bluffton’s population has grown, one thing has not: affordable places for new residents to live.

The area’s “rapidly rising” cost of living, particularly for rents and mortgages, is “causing hardship on low to moderate income families,” Bluffton Town Councilman Fred Hamilton, who leads the town’s Affordable Housing Committee, said earlier this week.

While town leaders have implemented measures to improve housing affordability, those efforts have had little success.

Here’s what hasn’t worked so far:

▪ Over the past several years, the town has put out feelers in hopes of finding developers to partner with on home construction projects.

Builders have shown little interest and no such partnership has materialized.

▪ In 2014, the town launched the Bluffton Home Series project. The program offers financial and planning assistance to residents for new modular homes, which are prefabricated and typically less expensive than traditional houses.

No one has taken advantage of the program in the three years since its inception.

▪ Last year, the town adopted a set of incentives aimed at enticing builders to include affordable housing units in their development projects.

Those incentives — which allow developers to squeeze more units on a smaller parcels of land as long as a certain number of those units are priced below market value — have been met with indifference.

“We don’t see a lot of people taking us up on (current incentives), so we have to think about how can we change them” to make them work for both residents and developers, Affordable Housing Committee vice-chairwoman Sheri Kroupa said earlier this week.

Beaufort County Housing Authority director Angela Childers said Thursday that Bluffton “is really being very progressive in trying new things — certainly I applaud that.” But, “historically — throughout the country — we’ve found that incentives don’t work in many instances,” because even with generous enticements developers can make much higher profits selling homes at market rates, she said.

CLICK HERE to read the entire July 13th ‘The Island Packet’ article

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