Vacant Spaces to Livable Places
New Castle County recognizes that vacant and abandoned properties become breeding grounds for crime, are targets for arson and become a health and safety hazard for their surrounding communities. These properties also drive additional costs to taxpayers by diverting public safety resources and forcing county government to pay for basic property maintenance, grass mowing, trash collection and illegal dumping. Additionally, vacant and abandoned housing has been shown to depress neighborhood property values and reduce tax revenues that fund critical public services.
But no more. New Castle County’s Vacant Spaces to Livable Places program is an exciting new initiative that encourages the redevelopment of vacant properties into healthy, livable homes in order to remove community eyesores and stabilize neighborhoods.
Vacant and blighted properties, which can lead to increased crime and other unsavory behavior, are an important issue in maintaining and revitalizing healthy communities. Strategic management of vacant properties has been successful in addressing these issues, which in turn helps to preserve surrounding property values and reduce maintenance costs to local governments.
County Executive Meyer formed the New Castle County Vacant Housing Working Group in an effort to have all county departments leverage their collective resources to address this growing problem. In addition to the County Executive's Office, other working group members include the Departments of Land Use, Community Services, Law, Finance and Public Safety, as well as County Council and the Sheriff's Office.
In addition to the utilization of county resources, several grants have been applied for and received by the County including a $100,000 grant from the Delaware State Housing Authority to be applied towards the maintenance of vacant properties, a $1.3 Million grant from the Delaware State Housing Authority to develop and rehabilitate properties along the Route 9 corridor, and a $25,000 planning grant from the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) to develop community plans for Edgemoor Gardens and Sparrow Run, which have very high rates of vacancy, crime and blight.
New Castle County’s vision is to create a program that allows vacant properties to be occupied by new homeowners or redeveloped without the need for a long foreclosure process or significant investment by taxpayers.
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Any property located within unincorporated New Castle County becoming vacant of occupancy for more 90 days, must be annually registered as a vacant property with the Department of Land Use.
While the property is vacant, owners are still required to secure and arrange for basic property maintenance throughout the period of vacancy.
Basic property maintenance includes grass cutting, garbage removal and securing any/all openings in the structure. Should New Castle County be forced to provide maintenance services, violations and fees shall be accessed.
To learn more about the Vacant Property Registration process, please visit the website.
To learn more about Property Maintenance Violations, please visit the website.
Need help purchasing or maintaining your home?
New Castle County offers down payment and settlement assistance for low and moderate income households to purchase a home. Additional information can be found here.
The County also offers a variety of affordable home repair programs designed to enable qualified homeowners to have repairs made which are necessary to free their homes of health and safety hazards. Please contact the Department of Community Services at (302) 395-5600 or visit their website to learn more.
Vacant properties are generally disposed of through the New Castle County Sheriff Sale Process or offered on the open market by way of the RFP process.
Sheriff Sale Information
In order to bid on properties taken to Sheriff Sale, there are two required certifications for all bidders and assignees:
• No outstanding liens owed to governmental entities in excess of $1,000 on New Castle County property.
• No ownership of property that has been vacant for 18 consecutive months unless there is a valid building permit or pending land use application.
Learn more here: Sheriff Sale Bidder Prequalification Facts
For more information regarding the sheriff sale process, please contact the Sheriff's Office at (302) 395-8450 or view their website.
Occasionally the County will offer properties for sale via the request for proposal (RFP) process. All RFPs are made posted on the county website and can be viewed here.
Nonprofit organizations seeking to redevelop parcels in the county's strategic reinvestment areas must submit the following items to the Department of Community Services:
- Capacity Questionnaire: demonstrates redevelopment experience, evidence of necessary funding, and the ability to meet post-sale requirements.
- Property Proposal: lays out a timeline and plan for the property, demonstrates financing has been secured, and shows a plan for affordability.
Nonprofit organizations should contact the Department of Community Services at (302) 395-5600 to discuss potential opportunities.
Vacant property in your neighborhood?
The Department of Land Use has identified over 800 vacant properties, inclusive of abandoned structures and open lots. If you suspect a vacant property in your neighborhood, please contact us at (302) 395-5555 or report it to our online property maintenance system.
Executive and Legislative Authority
Vacant Spaces to Livable Places was created through a series of executive orders and enabling legislation. Those documents can be found below.
New Castle County:
- Executive Order 2017-6: Good Faith Payment Plan
- Executive Order 2017-7: Prioritization of Properties For Sheriff’s Sale
- Sub. No. 2 to Ord. No. 14-117: Require the Registration and Payment of Fees for Vacant Properties
- Ord. No. 16-092: Remediation Vacancies, Making Progress Grant (ReVaMP)
- Sub. No. 1 to Ord. No. 17-033: Registration of Vacant Premises
- Ord. No. 17-052: Vacant and Abandoned Property Maintenance Grant
- Ord. No. 18-049: Prequalification of Purchasers at Tax Sales