Bluffton’s Neighborhood Assistance Program: Keeping Blufftonians in their homes, halting the housing crisis – one repair at a time
Bluffton wanted to promote housing affordability in the face of strong population growth and development while also halting the deterioration of older neighborhoods, especially those outside of its planned-unit developments. It also wanted to retain residents whose families have lived in the area for generations — including its Gullah descendants — who have all contributed to the town’s character. Finally, the town aimed to reduce the pollution coming from a lack of planned infrastructure, such as from septic tanks.
To achieve these goals, the town established the Neighborhood Assistance Program in 2016, which helps with repairs, hazard cleanup, private road repair, tree removals and septic cleanout. The program also helps establish residential street addresses to guide emergency services and provides heirs’ property title assistance.
The program is available to residents based on income requirements and requires no funding from the residents to participate. It seeks out applications from residents through simple word of mouth as well as service programs, churches, schools and police to identify residents in need. When planning projects, the town’s community development coordinator and a building code inspector evaluate how to help. There is a $20,000 limit of town funds for each project, which can be supplemented by nonprofit groups.
Since 2016, the number of residents helped has grown substantially. In the 2022 fiscal year, the program served 54 residents using a budget of $222,862. As the program grows and costs increase, the program anticipates a $290,000 budget for the 2024 fiscal year.
Contact Debbie Szpanka at email@example.com or 843.540.2274.