Dover, Laurel among six to receive funds from DSHA Strong Neighborhoods fund

DOVER – The city of Dover and town of Laurel were among six recipients statewide that will get a portion of $2.8 million from Delaware’s Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund to address vacant, abandoned or foreclosed properties, Gov. John Carney and Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) Director Anas Ben Addi announced Thursday.

The Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund is used to support community development, address crime and transform neighborhoods that are experiencing blight or other forms of stress. Through the program, abandoned properties are removed, renovated or replaced and sold to low-income residents who then become homeowners.

NCALL, which spearheads the Restoring Central Dover initiative, received $750,000 from the DSHA to acquire 12 vacant or abandoned properties and complete three demolitions of blighted structures – for a total of 15 units – within Dover’s Downtown Development District. NCALL will also receive $50,000 to provide community support and engagement in the targeted area.

In Dover, NCALL and Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity will use Strong Neighborhoods funding to continue efforts that address dilapidated properties within neighborhoods around North New Street, North and South Kirkwood Streets and South Queen Street. The target area is made up of 75 blocks within the downtown Dover area with a homeownership rate of just 30 percent.

“NCALL and Habitat have been successful in the last few years in addressing blighted properties throughout Central Dover with 40 homes already constructed where dilapidated buildings once stood,” said Karen Speakman, executive director of NCALL. “With this additional Strong Neighborhoods funding, we can continue to build on these efforts and give residents of these communities the opportunity to become homeowners.”

DSHA Director Anas Ben Addi is a frequent visitor to Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity (CDHFH) home openings and wall raisings in downtown Dover. He said that NCALL and the CDHFH are changing entire blocks one property at a time.

“By increasing homeownership rates in these neighborhoods, we not only change the lives of the families who purchase the homes, but we also help reduce crime, increase home values and strengthen communities,” Mr. Addi said. “DSHA is proud to support these organizations who are working tirelessly, even throughout the pandemic, to inspire change in some of the state’s most underserved areas.”

Sussex County Habitat for Humanity (SCHFH) received $500,000 to identify and acquire 10 properties in the blighted neighborhood known as Old Town and in nearby West Laurel. Three units will be located in Old Town and seven units will be located in West Laurel.

Old Town is located within Laurel’s Downtown Development District and is within Laurel’s historic district. SCHFH will also receive $50,000 to provide community support and engagement in the West Laurel area. The project is a partnership between SCHFH, Milford Housing Development Corporation, Laurel Redevelopment Corporation and the town of Laurel.

SCHFH will use its funding to begin the second phase of the Laurel Strong project, which is transforming blighted neighborhoods and providing new homeownership opportunities in the hardest-hit areas of the town.

“Laurel has a great vision for redevelopment, and we are pleased to be part of it,” said Kevin Gilmore, SCHFH’s executive director. “This Strong Neighborhoods funding will allow us to completely transform this area by increasing homeownership rates, improving the current housing stock and reducing crime.” 

This marks the fourth round of funding since the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund was launched in 2015.

Since the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund was initiated, $13.7 million has been awarded to organizations throughout the state, leveraging an estimated $43.2 million in private and other investment.

The program was initially funded using one-time bank settlement dollars and is now funded with a $3 million allocation in the FY 2021 state bond bill. Including the awards announced Thursday, the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund has provided resources to remove, renovate, or replace more than 284 blighted properties throughout the state.

This year’s investment of $2.8 million will leverage more than $11.5 million in private or other funding sources and lead to at least 53 new or rehabilitated housing units in Dover, Laurel, Wilmington, New Castle County and Claymont.

“Many of the communities in our state continue to feel the ripple effects of the foreclosure crisis a decade ago, and these effects have only been compounded by COVID-19,” said Gov. Carney. “The Strong Neighborhoods program provides organizations working on the ground in these communities with resources needed to purchase abandoned properties, renovate or remove them and build beautiful homes in their place.

“The funding we’re announcing (Thursday) will directly assist Delaware families by strengthening their communities and providing increased access to affordable homeownership.”

The other four housing projects chosen for funding in this round are all located within New Castle County, including:

Wilmington

Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank (WNCLB), working in cooperation with the City of Wilmington Real Estate & Housing Department, received $400,000 for the acquisition and land banking of one commercial nuisance property and rehabilitation of seven units. The target area is concentrated around a one-to-two block radius surrounding 7th and Jefferson Streets in the West Center City area of Wilmington.

New Castle County

Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware, Inc., received a $250,000 award to continue revitalization efforts along the Del. 9 corridor. Funds will be used to purchase and renovate five blighted and vacant homes in the communities of Holloway Terrace, Garfield Park, Rosehill, Simonds Gardens and Collins Park.

New Castle County Department of Community Services also received $450,000 to redevelop nine blighted and vacant homes in the distressed community of Edgemoor Gardens. Funding will complement and continue revitalization efforts in the area. New Castle County will also offer owner-occupied home repair and first-time homebuyer down payment and closing cost assistance with Community Development Block Grant funding.

Claymont

2 Fish Home Renovations was awarded $300,000 to acquire and renovate six vacant and/or blighted homes in the Overlook Colony and Clearfield Village communities. 2 Fish Home Renovations will also receive $50,000 for community support to hire a part-time employee to provide community engagement activities throughout the duration of the project. This project is a partnership between 2 Fish and Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation.

2 Fish Home Renovations will use Strong Neighborhoods funding to continue the organization’s efforts to improve the historic Overlook Colony and Clearfield Village area of Claymont. 2 Fish will also provide employment and job development opportunities for formerly incarcerated adults in New Castle County by hiring them to complete the home rehabilitation activities. 

“This funding will help our organization further its core mission of providing job opportunities for returning citizens while also contributing to the revitalization of Claymont,” said Keith Smith, president and founder of the organization. “For years, the Overlook Colony area has struggled with upkeep of rental properties, absentee landlords and preservation and rehabilitation of historic properties. With this funding, 2 Fish can renovate some of these blighted properties and provide affordable homeownership opportunities to help transform this community.”