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Politics & Government

Wilmington housing advocates question legislation that would expand city's eminent domain

housing justice rally 062122.JPG
Mark Arehart
Delaware Public Media
Housing advocates gather in Wilmington to question legislation that would expand the city's authority to acquire vacant or abandoned properties through eminent domain.

Elected officials and housing advocates rallied in downtown Wilmington Tuesday protesting a bill that would give the city broader authority to use eminent domain to acquire vacant properties.

Speakers questioned why a bill expanding eminent domain would be fast tracked through the General Assembly while other housing bills have stalled.

Introduced in early June, House Bill 458 was released by a committee last week following a hearing with no public comment.

Wilmington City Council President Trippi Congo wonders why no public comment was not part of the process.

“Why would we not have a community forum to get the community’s feedback and concerns and input? For it to be fast tracked, like has already been said, is extremely concerning to me and other council members,” Congo said.

The bill was on the House agenda Tuesday, but was not voted on.

Some advocates like Coby Owens with NAACP Delaware expressed concern the bill could allow the city to displace lower income communities in favor of new development projects.

“We have to stand up. That’s why thousands have taken action already to reach out to say we do not want this bill,” Owens said.

Advocates tout several housing bills as better ways to deal with blighted and vacant properties.

That legislation includes establishing a homelessness bill rights, access to representation during evictions, and a bill fighting housing discrimination based on income.