BLUFFTON, Sc. (WSAV) – The lack of affordable housing in the Lowcountry has been an issue for years, but with increasing “Now Hiring” signs up across the county, the Town of Bluffton is taking action to change it before it’s too late.
“Increasing cost of land, and construction, and development… makes affordable housing even more of a challenge,” said Bluffton Councilman Fred Hamilton.
Affordable housing is housing deemed affordable for the median household income in that area. In Bluffton, the average gross income is about $65,000 dollars a year. Many service workers make about $10 dollars an hour which equates to around $20,000 dollars a year.
Currently, Bluffton has affordable housing that was built in 2005 – a total of six houses in Old Town Bluffton. Affordable housing apartments like Avalon Shores have recently changed owners and labels from affordable to luxury.
“Bluffton has become very expensive community to live in,” said Hamilton, “Most of our workforce is coming as far as Colleton Hampton in Allendale… We’re gonna lose our workforce and community.”
Bluffton’s Affordable Housing Committee held a public forum Monday evening, not to give answers, but to start the discussion for a solution .
“We have to form some type of partnership… collaborative effort to understand how can we, together, make affordable housing reality,” said Hamilton.
Mayor Lisa Sulka suggested adding housing on top of commercial buildings and creating inclusionary zoning, where zoning would require a certain amount of affordable housing.
People from all over the spectrum attended the public forum: developers, builders, employers, employees, and officials not only from Bluffton but Hilton Head and the county.
One of those was Ben Kennedy who’s been working in construction in Bluffton for 10 years and now owns Brighton Builders.
“As a builder and doing some land development things, we realize there’s a major need for people not only in workforce housing…. for example we need workers to help us with our building products and to help assemble our buildings and all construction aspects. We really need laborers,” said Kennedy.
His suggests the town lease land to lessen overhead costs for builders so they can create affordable housing.
“Land in our area is pretty expensive so if you imagine having to buy that then putting in the infrastructure the utilities and then actually having to build the buildings it’s quite a big chunk of change,” he said, “If we don’t have the land factor in there it allows us a little more flexibility in the rent prices.”
That’s exactly what the the Affordable Housing Committee wants to hear from the community at this time, says Hamilton. Now that they’ve started the discussion, they want anyone with ideas and input to continue it at their meetings on the first Tuesday of every month at Bluffton Town Hall.
Kennedy says “it’s not something that needs to happen a year from now, it’s something that needs to happen right now.”