Charleston is preparing to drop a plan to buy 16 townhouses in West Ashley with federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, after city officials learned there would be legal hurdles to clear involving the title to the property and other ownership issues.

The city had planned to buy two vacant eight-unit buildings off Rice Drive using $500,000 in federal funds, and planned to turn the townhomes into rental units for people with low incomes.

However, it turned out that those two buildings are listed in county real estate records as a single property that includes two other buildings that the city didn't plan to buy.

Then, it became clear that the units the city planned to buy had more than one owner, and there were additional complications with a homeowners association.

Charleston City Council's Real Estate Committee recommended walking away from the deal at a meeting Monday afternoon, and City Council is expected to ratify that decision at a meeting tonight.

Geona Johnson, director of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, said the city has until June 15 to find another appropriate use for the federal funding.

The city has $670,000 in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding, which is meant to help acquire foreclosed-upon or blighted properties in order to keep them from dragging down the surrounding neighborhoods.

Charleston's funding comes from $7.4 million for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties, which flowed from the federal government through the state government and then the Lowcountry Housing Trust.