New Castle County takes new action to tackle neighborhood blight
Dunleith – Yesterday, in the neighborhood of historic Dunleith along the Route 9 corridor, County Executive Matthew Meyer was joined by nearly 100 state and local legislators, housing advocates, public safety officials, community leaders and others as he announced new steps to combat neighborhood blight. At a new home under construction at the site of a formerly vacant and blighted house, Meyer signed legislation into law that gives County government new tools to tackle vacant and abandoned housing and unveiled a vacant property strategy, including state legislation aimed at strengthening community development, reducing crime and supporting home ownership.
Vacant and abandoned homes become breeding grounds for crime and dumping grounds for trash, are targets for arson and become a health and safety hazard for their surrounding communities. These properties also drive costs to county taxpayers, diverting public safety resources and force local government to pay for basic maintenance, grass mowing, and waste removal. Additionally, vacant and abandoned housing has been shown to depress neighborhood property values and reduce tax revenues that fund critical public services. More than 1,300 vacant properties have been identified in unincorporated areas across New Castle County that are currently being monitored or maintained by the County’s Code Enforcement office.
“By turning vacant places to livable spaces we will strengthen neighborhoods and raise property values, and that will turn a financial liability for the County into financial opportunities for hardworking homeowners while reducing crime that vacant properties attract,” County Executive Matthew Meyer said. “I am proud to sign legislation that gives New Castle County new tools to combat blight and to kick off our new collaborative effort to lift up communities and improve public safety.”
During yesterday’s event, Meyer signed legislation sponsored by Council member David L. Tackett that establishes new authority to more fully offset the County’s costs for monitoring and maintaining vacant properties and to ensure full compliance with its existing vacant housing registry. It:
“This legislation will allow New Castle County to move out of the backseat into the driver’s seat for vacant and abandoned housing,” Councilman Tackett said.
Meyer also introduced a new vacant property strategy – a roadmap for action – spearheaded by the Departments of Land Use and Community Services along with County Council. It reflects New Castle County’s vision to create a program that allows vacant properties to be occupied by new homeowners or redeveloped without significant investment by the County by focusing on:
New Castle County has already drafted two pieces of legislation which will be introduced in the coming days by State Representative James Johnson and Senator Bryan Townsend that advance this agenda:
“Rebuilding a community consumed by blight is not an easy task, but this legislation will give local governments the necessary tools to begin that endeavor,” Rep. James Johnson, D-New Castle, who will sponsor the bills in the House of Representatives, said in a written statement. “By empowering local governments to better repurpose building and homes, communities have a chance to avoid falling victim to crime and housing vacancy, and residents can move on a successful path forward.”
“Hardworking Delawareans shouldn’t have their quality of life determined by property owners around them who aren’t truly invested in their communities,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, the Senate sponsor of the legislation. “This legislation empowers local governments like New Castle County to ensure home buyers are going to be good neighbors that don’t have track records of abandoning properties and harming our neighborhoods.”
The steps announced yesterday build on recent efforts undertaken by County government to combat vacant and abandoned properties. These include:
The new home on the site of yesterday’s event is being developed by Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware with federal funds provided through the New Castle County Department of Community Services. The property is one of two dozen affordable housing units developed in Dunleith by Interfaith Housing, in partnership with New Castle County. New Castle County has assisted in the redevelopment of 247 properties since 2009 in neighborhoods along the Route 9 corridor.
Contact: Jason Miller, Director of Communications, 302-545-1462