“Nearly 6,500 children in Delaware experience homelessness each year. The proposed legislation will drastically add to this number.”

Carolyn Gordon, Executive Director of Family Promise® of Northern New Castle County, comments on a bill before the Wilmington City Council that would change how violations of the housing code are enforced. Click to read the original bill (Ordinance 17-038) and an amendment filed on October 8, 2018.

 

October 10, 2018

Dear Councilwoman Dixon, Councilman Freel & Committee:

It is with great urgency that I write you to revisit Ordinance 17-038, the proposed legislation to “reduce blight and vacant properties in Wilmington.” Our community can agree that blighted properties are troubling and something should be done about them.  We also agree that the City of Wilmington has the means, political will and the responsibility to accomplish this.  Where we disagree, however, is on how to best accomplish these goals.  Unfortunately, the proposed ordinance is broad and will negatively impact homeowners, landlords, vacant properties, and communities overall.  This will have severe unintended consequences: more foreclosures, more blighted properties, and more homelessness.  These concerns greatly impact impoverished communities and African-American households more than any others.  I want to believe this is not the intention of my City Council.

Please consider an alternative piece of legislation that administers fines on owners of vacant and blighted properties only, not on cost-burdened citizens who own their own homes, or effective landlords who are trying to give people a second chance by renting to them.  This legislation needs to be combined with reinstating rental property inspections (other cities do this, why don’t we?) and establishing a well-funded, well-publicized and well-managed homeowner repair program.

As Executive Director of Family Promise of Northern New Castle County, I work with families with children who are experiencing homelessness.  Our options for housing in Wilmington that are safe, decent and affordable are already extremely limited.  Nearly 6,500 children in Delaware experience homelessness each year.  The proposed legislation will drastically add to this number.  Instead of repairing housing stock and helping homeowners and landlords come into compliance, this legislation will put landlords out of business, put people out of housing and create more blighted properties.  Our social service systems are already overwhelmed.

As a resident of the 2nd District, I see the value in tending to blighted properties. I live next to one that has been sitting vacant for two years. This could be housing for some of the 2,000+ households that need it.  I also see neighbors for whom this current proposed legislation would create a disparate impact — they need help for repairs and help to come into compliance.  What they don’t need, however, is to be punished with outrageous fines which will only further break down the already tenuous fabric of our community.

Thank you for allowing me to share comments.

Carolyn Gordon, Executive Director
Family Promise of Northern New Castle County

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