The population of Bluffton has surged by 1,700 percent in the last 20 years. This sharp and sudden boom brought soaring land costs, making it almost impossible to build affordable homes within town limits. Worried about the impact of pervasive development on the outskirts of town and hoping to encourage growth in an underutilized area of Bluffton’s historic district, officials pledged to redevelop run-down Wharf Street into affordable housing.
Numerous grants funded the project, including money from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and HOME funds. The town donated the parcel of land for the new homes. Although spearheaded by Bluffton officials, many partnerships—at the county, regional and state levels—were formed to ensure the project was a success. The public as well as the town’s planning and historic preservation commissions played important roles in the project, providing volunteers and advice about maintaining the historical integrity of the neighborhood.
In the end, six modular homes were constructed on Wharf Street in the center of Bluffton’s Old Town District. The environmental impact on the land and community was lessened by the modular construction process. These affordable homes were built to fit in with the historic nature of their surroundings, and took the place of two vacant lots. The modular homes feature energy-efficient mechanical systems and appliances which provide lower utility bills and maintenance costs to homeowners. Through this project, officials demonstrated that it is possible to integrate affordable housing into an existing city center—even a historic one. The six houses on Wharf Street are now an integral part of the diversity and economic stability of Bluffton.