Legislators examine data on Delaware housing crisis
DOVER – As new data reveals the depths of Delaware’s housing crisis, 20 State Senate and House of Representatives members met Wednesday to examine several of the latest state housing reports ahead of the 2024 legislative session.
“Safe and affordable housing is necessary infrastructure for building thriving. And yet year after year, soaring prices, inventory shortages, and systemic barriers to homeownership have put the American Dream out of reach for too many working families,” Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, chair of the Senate Housing and Land Use Committee, said in a statement.
The joint committee informational session featured survey summaries from the state health department and report evaluations provided by the University of Delaware, the Housing Alliance Delaware, and the Delaware State Housing Authority.
The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services synopsized the 2022-23 health needs survey data that will be published for the public in 2024. Delaware Division of Public Health Bureau of Health Equity Chief Sequoia Rent reported that New Castle County has the highest percentage of property owners at 26.4%, while Kent County has the most renters at 54.7%, and Sussex County has the most mortgagees at 34.1%.
The report underscores that no less than 10.5% of survey participants encounter housing challenges, including bug infestation, mold, insufficient heating, and inadequate insulation across each county.
Stephen Metraux, director of the University of Delaware’s Center for Community Research & Services, reviewed the 2023 “Homelessness in Delaware: An Assessment” report. Between 2018 and 2022, the housing population has doubled to unprecedented levels while homeless service providers have not adapted to this change.
Metraux recommended to first convene a conference, followed by the creation of a task force with a strategic plan that will enhance state data and facilitate the development of a permanent housing reassessment. This will help us work “toward a future where there is quality, affordable housing and enough quantities to be available for everybody,” Metraux said.
“We need to do all we can to ensure that all Delawareans have access to affordable housing,” said Rep. Kendra Johnson, the chair of the House Housing Committee. “There are many factors contributing to housing insecurities, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find solutions to the housing crisis and enable more people to become homeowners.”
Housing Alliance Delaware summarized the 2023 Point in Time Count to conclude that the state homelessness population is linked to the availability of housing and the cost of rent in the community.
“Housing availability and housing costs, rental housing specifically, are the two things that really track with homelessness… places where rents increase saw homeless levels increase. Places where rents remained high have high levels of homelessness,” Housing Alliance Delaware Executive Director Rachel Stucker said during the committee meeting. “We need to have housing for everyone in our community, so everyone can be safe.”
The DSHA highlighted key findings from the 2023 Housing Needs Assessment, including that half of renters are cost-burdened. The report also summarized the low housing supply, restricted building permits for multi-family units, endorsement for diverse housing options, and specific housing needs for certain populations.
“The housing needs assessment is a statement of need. It does not make recommendations. However, now that we have this information, stakeholders have an opportunity to come together in a very intentional way to collaborate on how we address the needs that have been identified in the housing needs assessment,” said Caitlin Del Collo, DSHA chief strategy advisor.
The Senate Housing and Land Use Committee reiterated that the betterment of Delaware is contingent upon improving the housing market and its complex circumstances.
“If it were easy, we would have done it already,” Stucker said.