Affordable new town houses come to Milford’s 4th Ward

A set of eight new town houses has been built at the corner of Northwest Front and Church streets in Milford. The homes are targeting low- or middle-income buyers. (Special to the State News/Ariane Mueller)

MILFORD — On the corner of Church and Northwest Front streets in the city’s 4th Ward, there used to be an empty lot and a few derelict buildings.

Now, the space has eight brand new town houses earmarked for low- or middle-income buyers.

Jason James, Milford’s vice mayor and one of the 4th Ward’s representatives on City Council, said that corner had become an eyesore by 2017.

“My father lived at a structure that was on that property,” Mr. James said. “He passed in 1994, and ever since that time, the housing there had become more and more dilapidated.”

Dan Bond, a Milford resident who is involved with several real estate projects across the downtown area, is one of the main forces behind the new development.

“I happened to own a property on that block, a double lot on the block, and had made friends with a man from Maryland, John DiTomasso, who owned the other portions of that lot,” Mr. Bond said.

Mr. Bond added that back in 2017, the city approached him and Mr. DiTomasso about developing the land with some expenses covered by the Strong Neighborhood Housing Finance Program.

“This is money that the state had gotten from the federal government,” Mr. Bond said, which “had sued a lot of big mortgage banks after the last financial crisis.”

Per the Strong Neighborhood program’s requirements, six of the eight new units will only be available to those who have slightly-above-average incomes for the area or lower.

“Most of the town houses are to be purchased by people who don’t have a family income higher than 120% of the area’s average,” Mr. Bond said. “Most people in Milford would fit into that, but there is that requirement.”

Recently, signs went up in front of the town homes encouraging interested passersby to call Linda Vista Real Estate Services for more information.

Mr. Bond said he wanted to work with Linda Vista because it has deep ties to the community in the 4th Ward.

Ideally, Mr. Bond would like to sell the homes to people already living in the 4th Ward.

“I knew the owner of Linda Vista, Jose (Quiñones), and I had spoken with him previously, so I knew that he was a good guy,” Mr. Bond said. “He’s probably the leading Realtor for the Hispanic community in southern Delaware, and we have a significant Hispanic population in the area. Particularly along Second Street, which runs along the north side of the property.”

Mr. James said the ward has traditionally been a mostly African American community.

“It may still be predominantly African American, but now it’s a mixed community, like most communities in the Milford area,” he said.

Local developer Dan Bond, right, talks with Vice Mayor Jason James about the new downtown property. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

Lillian Harrison is the agent responsible for selling the properties.

“Lillian is well-established in the 4th Ward. She’s a social activist, she’s started a number of different social support services,” Mr. Bond said. “She’s worked a lot with the community and the churches, and she’s from that area.”

Additionally, Mr. James said Ms. Harrison has experience helping first-time and relatively low-income buyers get their finances in order.

“She has a lot of experience on working with people to get them to the place where their credit needs to be,” Mr. James said, and she can show people “how to budget and how to be a homeowner. That’s part of the service that she provides.”

Ms. Harrison said workers still need about another month-and-a-half to finish up the interiors of the homes. She said these new homes are priced about the same as other town houses in the area.

“At $185,000, we’re a little lower than some, but our end units are going to be right around $197,000,” Ms. Harrison said. “I’ve looked at some other local town houses and things like that, and other than location being something that’s really great for these versus the other (town houses), the price is right in line.”

Mr. Bond said all the units are about 1,400 square feet and contain three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.

“Each town house has two dedicated parking spaces. All of them are in the rear except the end units, (whose) parking will be on the side streets,” Ms. Harrison said.

Mr. Bond said he sees many empty lots being built on and historic homes being rehabbed in the old sections of the 4th Ward and other parts of Milford’s Downtown Development District, a local opportunity zone.

“There are a lot of opportunities to buy older homes at reasonable prices in Milford, … particularly for people who have an ability, an interest to buy a new home to fix it up,” he said. “I think it’s a bargain.”

Still, Mr. Bond said the city and developers have a lot of work to do in terms of keeping Milford affordable for buyers and renters with more modest incomes.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” he said of his project’s impact on the local affordable housing supply. “Not only because there’s already a shortage, but Milford’s growing. We have a lot of people with the Wellness Village and the hospital who are coming in, who will be looking for moderately priced homes.”

Mr. Bond said the city has a “severe shortage” of affordable housing.

“In terms of new town houses that are affordable, there’s a real shortage,” he said. “That’s why I think we see companies like Ryan Homes and others coming into the area and building a lot of new town houses over by the hospital.”

But in the 4th Ward, Ms. Harrison said the community is happy with new development.

“It’s already changed the look of the neighborhood just by being there, especially with that specific street,” she said. “It’s fresh. It’s innovative. It’s really nice.”

Mr. James said that for the city, this development is more than just attractive new housing. It’s an aesthetic revitalization of a key gateway to downtown Milford.

“Now, there’s fresh, affordable, very good-looking housing when you first enter the city coming up (Del.) 14,” Mr. James said.

Those interested in the new town houses can call Linda Vista Real Estate Services at 313-1600.