Milestones reached: Housing Authority celebrates at Liberty Court

DOVER — Officials with the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) joined state and local dignitaries for a dual celebration on Friday morning — last November’s completion of $18 million in renovations to the Liberty Court apartment complex off Walker Road in Dover and the DSHA’s 20th year as a participant in the Moving to Work program.

Anas Ben Addi, director of the DSHA, was joined in the festivities by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Sen. Trey Paradee, Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, Dover City Councilman Tanner Polce, Liberty Court residents and Moving to Work (MTW) participants.

“The achievements we are celebrating are just two examples of the hard work our staff and partners do every day to provide Delawareans with stable, affordable housing,” Director Addi said.

“We are proud of our accomplishments and will continue finding ways to improve our public housing sites and help more of our residents become economically self-sufficient.”
Sen. Carper said he was impressed at the work that DSHA has been accomplishing.

“I commend DSHA for its efforts to revitalize the Liberty Court housing site and for achieving this great milestone of 20 years with the Moving to Work program,” Sen. Carper said.

“DSHA should be proud of all the work they have done to give its Liberty Court residents a new place to call home and for the two decades they have spent guiding hundreds of Delawareans to financial security,” he added.
Charles Fisher, a U.S. Army veteran, attended Friday’s event and was among the most important of the guests since he is a resident of Liberty Court.

“I’ve lived in Liberty Court for almost five years now, not to mention I lived here for 17 years when it was called Carlyle Gardens,” Mr. Fisher said. “My apartment has improved a lot from the old ones and now I have brand-new appliances, nice floors in the kitchen and cabinets and such. The apartment is much better than it was before. It feels bigger, better and more comfortable to live in.”

The Liberty Court property was built in 1974 and was known as Carlyle Gardens, then a privately-owned and market-rate apartment complex, before it was purchased by DSHA in 1989. From 1990 until 1993, DHSA substantially rehabilitated the complex and created 108 public housing subsidized units.

Officials gather.

However, in 2015, an internal inspection on one of the complex’s buildings found areas of moisture within stucco on the exterior of the building that was causing the interior walls and framing of the building to swell. Inspection of other buildings showed similar issues.

The DSHA determined that a major rehabilitation of the property was needed.

Construction at Liberty Court began in July 2017 and was finalized in November 2018.
Renovations included: demolition of all residential buildings and construction of new buildings on existing foundations; installation of Energy Star compliant high-efficiency appliances in all units; an open-concept design in the living room and kitchens; installation of hickory kitchen cabinets, black appliances, ceiling fans, vinyl plank flooring and sprinkler systems in all units.

The renovations also comprised of replacing and striping of parking lots, the installation of a new security camera system and sidewalks and dumpster enclosures on the property grounds.

The renovation project did require DSHA to reduce the number of units at Liberty Court from 108 to 100 in order to provide a new fire lane at the complex in compliance with fire marshal requirements.
The cost of the Liberty Court renovations received financing provided through the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program and DSHA’s Affordable Rental Housing and HOME programs. WSFS Bank also provided bond financing totaling $10.1 million and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh provided $650,000 through its Affordable Housing Program.

Another reason to celebrate
In addition to celebrating the renovation of Liberty Court, officials with DSHA were also honoring 20 years of helping Delawareans become economically self-sufficient through the Moving to Work program.

Mr. Addi said that in 1999 HUD chose DSHA as one of 24 public housing agencies in the country to participate in MTW. Today, DSHA is one of just 39 public housing agencies, out of more than 3,400 across the country, to participate in the MTW program.

He added that MTW is a demonstration program that provides public housing agencies with the opportunity to design and test innovative, local strategies. The program has three distinct goals: reducing costs; providing incentives for families to obtain employment and self-sufficiency; and increasing housing choices for low-income families.

Participants are allowed five years to successfully complete the MTW program. In those five years, participants pay rent totaling 35 percent of their adjusted monthly income. DSHA creates an escrow account for the resident and invests all rent paid over the 35 percent limit into that savings account.

The participant is then required to work a certain number of hours each year of the MTW program and must complete a financial literacy course. At the end of the five years, if they have successfully completed all requirements, the participant is then given access to all of the escrow account they have built up and can use that money to find housing at fair market rent or to buy a home.

Shantel Emory, a former resident of Liberty Court, put the MTW program to good use and successfully completed the program in 2018.
She was able to use about $7,800 that she saved during her five years with MTW to purchase a home in Magnolia.

“The MTW program gave me the financial stability I needed to achieve my goals and find secure housing for my family,” an emotional Ms. Emory said.
“Without this program, it would have taken me several more years to save enough money to buy my first home. I am grateful DSHA offers this program in our state.”

Since 1999, DSHA has disbursed more than $3.3 million in MTW savings to 995 families who successfully completed the program. Of those families, 698 moved into fair market rental housing and 297 bought a home. MTW often pairs well with DSHA’s homeownership programs, which can provide homebuyers with low-interest mortgages and down payment and closing cost assistance.

Mayor Christiansen said there is nothing more gratifying than to see people realize their dreams.
“I want to congratulate the Delaware State Housing Authority and everyone involved for realizing this is a nice community and housing development where people need more than a house – they need a home,” Mayor Christiansen said.

“There is nothing more rewarding for a person to have a house that’s become a home and to have the ability to have a decent job to take care of their families. That is part of the American dream.”
Rep. Rochester said she knows first-hand the importance of getting to realize that dream. Her family grew up in public housing.

“The work DSHA is doing to provide quality affordable housing for residents of our state is crucial, and I am honored to celebrate these two important achievements with Director Ben Addi, his staff and partners,” she said. “I know DSHA will continue to make great strides both in providing its residents with beautiful places to live and in helping more Delawareans achieve economic self-sufficiency through the Moving to Work program.”

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

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