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Wilmington City Council community subcommittee created to review draft housing policies

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Larry Nagengast
/
Delaware Public Media

Two Wilmington City Council members plan to offer their own proposal to fight blight in the city— after a Mayor-backed plan faced opposition.

 

The chair of City Council’s Community Development & Urban Planning committee, Councilwoman Rysheema Dixon, has announced the creation of a “healthy communities” subcommittee, intended to help develop a more popular plan to revise the city’s housing code.

Legislation that would allow the city to more efficiently fine owners of vacant and rental properties for code violations, raise more revenue through rental licensing fees and penalize owners of unregistered vacant and rental properties has faced pushback from city landlords and others. It has also faced hurdles in City Council, where it remains tabled. 

Dixon says she and Councilwoman Yolanda McCoy have an alternate approach to housing code reform. “Ours is primarily focused on vacant only for first,” said Dixon. “Ours is basically moreso a healthy communities policy, knowing that there are major issues not just stemming from housing but also other issues surrounding communities in order to make them healthier.”

She says the subcommittee will include city tenants, landlords, homeowners and advocates. She says she will seek feedback from this group on the draft policies, which she hopes will produce a more “comprehensive and holistic” housing code. 

“A lot of the conversations we’ve had, primarily a lot of them are isolated,” she said. “We haven’t really had full conversations really with our fair housing folks, our housing counselors, people who are working in the everyday line in housing in the city of Wilmington.”

Dixon says the policies she is drafting with Councilwoman Yolanda McCoy will be built in stages — tackling vacant properties first, with legislation for rentals and homeowners coming later. She aims to also address factors other than housing that impact community health. 

Dixon’s first draft policy would penalize code violations on vacant properties through a system of civil fines — rather than the current criminal enforcement system— like the anti-blight proposal pending before city council. 

Dixon plans to introduce the first of her housing code ordinances when Council reconvenes at the end of August.

 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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