State invests $3.2M to help revitalize neighborhoods

DOVER — A trio of projects in Dover, Milford and Georgetown were among seven statewide that received a combined $3.2 million from the Delaware State Housing Authority’s Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund on Monday.

The money will support community development, address crime and transform neighborhoods that are experiencing blight or other forms of stress, officials said.

Through the program, abandoned properties are removed, renovated or replaced and sold to low-income residents, who then become homeowners.

This is the third round of Strong Neighborhoods Housing Funds awarded since the initiative was launched in 2015. The investment of $3.2 million is expected to leverage around $9.4 million in private or other funding sources and lead to more than 60 new or rehabilitated housing units in Wilmington, New Castle County, Dover, Milford and Georgetown.

“Many of the communities in our state continue to feel the ripple effects of the recession and the foreclosure crisis,” said Gov. John Carney. “The Strong Neighborhoods program provides organizations working in these communities the resources to acquire abandoned properties, renovate or remove them and build beautiful homes in their place. The funding announced (Monday) will directly impact families by improving communities and providing increased access to homeownership.”

Susan Eliason, director of Housing Development for the Delaware Housing Authority, announced the names of the various organizations that received grants that will provide seed funding for the community-improvement projects on Monday at the Solid Rock Community Outreach Center in Dover.

Supporting new homes
NCALL Research received $500,000 that will support 10 newly constructed homes in the Restoring Central Dover target area within the city’s Downtown Development District (DDD). The new homes are part of a partnership between NCALL and Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity (CDHFH).

The new funding will help NCALL and the CDHFH address dilapidated properties within neighborhoods around Queen Street, North New Street and North Kirkwood Street. The target area is made up of 75 blocks within the downtown Dover area with a homeownership rate of just 25 percent.

Karen Speakman, executive director of NCALL, said a total of 28 new homes in Dover have been completed through its partnership with the CDHFH over the past five years. The additional funding will continue to support their efforts, she said.

“We totally appreciate the support that we get from the Delaware Housing Authority and this great grant that we are receiving,” Ms. Speakman said.

“It’s really a key part of our holistic community development approach and collaborative effort that we’re doing here in Dover that we call ‘Restoring Central Dover,’ which is a collaboration of a number of different organizations, the city of Dover and neighborhood residents.

“NCALL is the quarterback of this effort and we’re entering our fifth year of implementing this plan and we are very proud of the outcomes that we’ve had to date. The Strong Neighborhood Housing Fund has been instrumental in making this all possible.”

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen applauded the state’s commitment to helping turn around blighted communities.

“I want to thank the state of Delaware for all their efforts in helping revitalize our downtown area and a troubled neighborhood in and around our downtown area,” Mayor Christiansen said. “My wife grew up at 316 West Division Street and every time we drive by there, it breaks her heart to see the disrepair of the neighborhood that she grew up in.

“Through the efforts of the Delaware State Housing Authority, NCALL and Habitat for Humanity, just like a phoenix, that neighborhood is rising from the ashes. Dover is grateful to the Governor and DSHA for their support of our efforts to strengthen city neighborhoods. With these funds, we can continue to address these blighted properties and give residents of these communities the opportunity to become homeowners.”

The Milford Housing Development Corporation (MHDC) received $350,000 from the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund to support seven newly constructed or rehabbed homes. The work will take place in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Milford where several DDD projects are already underway.

Acquiring more properties
In Georgetown, the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity got $500,000 to identify and acquire 10 properties in the Kimmeytown neighborhood in the northeast part of the town. Two properties will be sold to the MHDC to reconstruct or rehabilitate.

“Many of the homes in this part of the town are dilapidated and in need of significant repair, with overcrowding and absentee landlords creating a stock of vacant and blighted housing,” said Kevin Gilmore, executive director of the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity. “Working with the Kimmeytown Partnership, this funding will allow us to completely transform this area.”

Wilmington was the recipient of three of the grants.

The Central Baptist Community Development Corporation (CBCDC) was awarded $500,000 to address and rehabilitate 10 vacant properties in the city’s East Side neighborhood. This project is a joint effort between the CBCDC and Cinnaire Solutions.

“The East Side community has historically faced low home ownership levels and high levels of vacancy and blight,” said Rev. Dr. Terrence Keeling, president and CEO of the CBCDC.
‘Significant impact’
“This funding will have a significant impact on stabilizing this neighborhood and creating greater opportunity for homeownership in an area that has previously seen few homeowners,” he added.

Cinnaire Solutions also received $450,000 for acquisition, demolition and new construction of nine long-term vacant properties on the 600 block of W. 8th Street in West Center City. This project is a partnership between Cinnaire and the Delaware Valley Development Company, a long-standing Delaware-based affordable housing developer.

The Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank was given $505,000 to acquire and demolish 10 or more vacant properties on the 600 block of N. Jefferson Street in West Center City. This project supports the same neighborhood of vacant properties as the Cinnaire project.

The New Castle County Department of Community Services was awarded $400,000 to continue revitalization efforts along the Del. 9 corridor. Funds will be used to purchase and renovate four blighted and vacant homes in the Collins Park community and four additional homes in the distressed community of Edgemoor Gardens.

A total of $11.25 million has been awarded to organizations throughout the state, leveraging an estimated $34.2 million in private and other investment, since the launch of the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund in 2015.

The program was initially funded using one-time bank settlement dollars and is now funded with a $3 million allocation in the Fiscal Year 2019 state bond bill. Including the awards announced Monday, the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund has provided resources to remove, renovate, or replace more than 230 blighted properties throughout the state.

“These projects will be helping families and individuals who need housing, while strengthening the neighborhoods in which they are located, revitalizing properties that have fallen into disrepair and bringing people back to live in them,” said DSHA Director Anas Ben Addi.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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