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VIEWPOINT: Together we can do more to meet statewide housing needs

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It has been more than a year since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and First State residents are starting to emerge from the crisis and adapt to the new normal. For many, though, there are still concerns around unemployment, food insecurity, and housing issues like foreclosures and evictions. In March we joined the Delaware State Housing Authority to announce the extension of the Delaware Housing Assistance Program—a vital lifeline for those struggling to pay rent. Andre, a resident of The Flats in Wilmington, spoke about his experience losing income from his work as an executive chef during the pandemic, and how important programs like this have been to helping his family make ends meet during the last year.

Our organizations, HDC MidAtlantic (HDC) and  NCALL (National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor Research Fund, Inc.), work with residents and clients everyday who are struggling to secure or maintain affordable housing. We have expanded programming during the pandemic to meet these needs, and we are committed to working with local partners to do more to address housing needs across the state.

For HDC, this has meant ensuring that every one of the residents living in our housing communities in Wilmington, Dover, and Smyrna who have struggled to pay rent are contacted by our staff to make a plan to weather the crisis, can access additional resources, and have the support they need to apply for state rental assistance. And it means we are more dedicated now than ever to working with local partners and community organizations to find new solutions to meeting housing needs.

For NCALL, this has meant providing our housing and technical assistance services as well as pivoting to assist over 200 Delaware households apply for rental assistance from the Delaware’s Housing Assistance Program. Our foreclosure prevention counselors aided 49 families in applying for Delaware mortgage assistance. In addition, NCALL’s Loan Fund offered 90-day payment deferrals of principal and/or interest to all borrowers and twelve borrowers utilized this assistance.  NCALL continues to offer emergency rent and mortgage assistance as we recover from the pandemic.

NCALL and HDC are charter members of NeighborWorks America, a network of excellence comprised of 250 community development and housing organizations across the country committed to creating equitable housing solutions, improving people’s lives, and strengthening communities. During the pandemic, our organizations quickly pivoted and assessed what our residents, clients, and communities most needed.

But for everyone we support, and for every resident like Andre, there are many more who struggle to secure safe and affordable housing. In fact, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 1 out of 4 Delawareans who rent their home are extremely low income, and of those 3 out of 4 are spending more than half their income on housing costs. That is not sustainable, and we are committed to doing more.

We, along with our fellow members of the Nonprofit Housing Agenda, are calling on Governor Carney and state officials to make a substantial investment of American Rescue Plan dollars into the creation and preservation of affordable housing. Delaware lacks nearly 20,000 rental units for extremely low-income renters—leaving 25% of renter households without access to affordable rental housing. The state also has an insufficient supply of affordable homes for moderate and low-income families to purchase—keeping families from achieving the American dream of homeownership. Now is the time for bold and innovative action to meet growing housing needs, and we remain committed to working with state agencies and partners to answer the call.

During NeighborWorks Week (June 5th-12th), HDC, NCALL and NeighborWorks organizations across the country highlight our work to strengthen communities and remove barriers to accessing housing. This week we take a moment to express our gratitude to the many people and institutions who have teamed up to keep housing stable for the most vulnerable in our state during the crisis of the last year. And we recommit to working together to create more affordable homes for the people of Delaware now and for years to come. We know it is possible for every Delawarean to have a safe, welcoming, and affordable place to call home, but getting there will not be easy. We need all people of goodwill to join in advocating for more resources and better housing options in our communities, and we call on each one of you to join us.

 

By Dana Hanchin, president and CEO of HDC MidAtlantic, and Karen Speakman, executive director of NCALL
Guest Columnists


 

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