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NCC boosts Claymont affordable housing with $2.7M grant

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Overlook Colony affordable housing Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware

A New Castle County grant has helped to renovate these affordable units in Overlook Colony in Claymont. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

CLAYMONT – Overlook Colony is a more than century-old row home community off Philadelphia Pike that was built as workforce housing following World War I.

Since then, it has played an important cornerstone to industry in the Claymont community, but while many of the units have since been acquired by private landlords, about three-dozen are managed by Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware, a nonprofit affordable and low-income housing developer.

As tax credits on the Overlook Colony units were set to expire, however, they were at risk of turning to market-rate units as well, potentially pricing out many tenants in need.

Matt Meyer Overlook Colony affordable housing Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware

County Executive Matt Meyer signs a $2.7 million grant to the Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware on Wednesday morning. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

In stepped New Castle County, which allocated $2.3 million from its federal American Rescue Plan Act funding and $400,000 from the county’s Housing Trust Fund to pay for renovations to the units and subsidize their cost to ensure that they could continue to be offered at below-market rates to eligible tenants.

It equates to less than $900 a month for a recently renovated three-bedroom unit, according to Darlene Sample, executive director of Interfaith Community Housing.

“The problem of housing affordability is serious,” County Executive Matt Meyer said at a press conference Wednesday. “We’re on the frontlines of that crisis. We’re very careful with the resources that we have to make sure we’re not deploying them all in the city of Wilmington.”

The funding announcement came just a day after the Delaware State Housing Authority released a new report that detailed the rising need for affordable housing in the state. It found that at least 250 rental units aimed at households earning half or less of the state’s average median income (AMI) would need to be built each year for a decade to meet the pace of population growth here.

In New Castle County, about 4,000 housing units at or below the AMI would need to be built by 2030, according to the report.

One way that the county can support development of affordable housing is through subsidies to developers that would offset profit losses if they had sold or rented them at market rates. While the federal ARPA funding from the county and state has helped support the development of affordable housing, it is limited funding that will have to be spent by the end of 2024.

Matt Meyer Overlook Colony affordable housing Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware

County Executive Matt Meyer is examining ways to bolster affordable housing development in Delaware’s largest county. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Meanwhile, New Castle County’s Housing Trust Fund levies an impact fee on property rezonings to support such subsidies. Meyer told Delaware Business Times that his administration is considering ways to bolster the fund into the future, including potentially levying the fee on market-rate housing built under by-right zoning too.

“We’re hearing from all sorts of employers that they want to hire here, but their employees have nowhere to live. So, we’re working on it with money and we’re also working on it by making some changes to New Castle County code so that affordable housing developments can be built across our county,” he said.

The Meyer administration has also worked with Habitat for Humanity’s “Almost Home” program that places unsuccessful Habitat applicants in subsidized housing while they receive counseling to repair their credit score.

“So, after a year or two they’re in a place where they can own a home. It’s like a ladder to homeownership that hopefully, even once the subsidy stops, results in them being a homeowner who’s accruing equity in a really valuable asset,” Meyer said.

The county’s Vacant Spaces to Livable Places (VSLP) program has also been successful in reducing nuisance properties over the last six years by half. That program essentially sends unresponsive and tax-delinquent properties to sheriff’s sale, and redevelops them in-house or through sale to private developers. While all of that housing isn’t affordable, Meyer estimated that 500 of the roughly 600 homes sold through the process were in an affordable range while putting millions of dollars back onto property and school tax rolls.

The VSLP program helped to turn around other neglected portions of Overlook Colony through new ownership and renovations.

Brett Saddler, executive director of the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp., which is spearheading the larger redevelopment of the community from its industrial past, said Wednesday that he was thrilled to see additional support come to affordable housing in Claymont.

“As much as we sometimes focus on Darley Green or new residential projects, we also have to ensure that our longtime residents and properties are taken care of too,” he said.

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