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Seven-bill legislative package introduced to help address Delaware housing crisis

Older housing units across from the Imani Village
Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media
Older housing units across from the Imani Village

State Sen. Russ Huxtable (D-Lewes) introduces a seven-bill package in the Senate to address Delaware’s housing crisis.

The bipartisan legislative package filed on Thursday known as "The Housing Agenda" aims to incentivize public and private investments in new construction, bolster existing state programs and create new opportunities for higher density development in Delaware.

"This is a great first step," Huxtable said. "This issue obviously is dynamic — it's a complicated issue, and no one bill will solve the issue."

Huxtable says while he doesn’t believe all seven of the bills will land, he wants to provide as many tools as possible in the hopes that some of them will pass and begin to seriously address the housing crisis.

“It’s a potpourri of policies that we hope to hit somewhere to make some progress. Like I said, there’s no one bill that’s the magic bill that says ‘this bill solves it all,’ and that’s why there’s at least seven today.”

Huxtable highlighted a few bills in particular, including one that would lower the cost of building new affordable housing projects by fully exempting low-to-moderate-income dwelling units from the state’s realty transfer tax.

Currently, the 2% tax is levied on new construction valued at $10,000 or more.

Another bill would create a dedicated revolving loan to support the state’s home repair program which helps families stay in their homes longer.

Huxtable also expressed particular support for one of the bills that would help spur workforce housing development.

The act would establish the Delaware Workforce Housing Program which will allow housing investors to be reimbursed up to 20% of the capital costs associated with the workforce housing units they create.

Huxtable says the program is modeled after the current Downtown Development District Program.

“The Downtown Development District has shown proven success. I think that could really be a great program – provide state incentives to do the housing.”

The program would be administered by the Delaware State Housing Authority and requires DSHA to provide an annual report of the effectiveness of the program.

He also pointed out one of the bills that would require counties and municipalities to develop ordinances that allow for the construction of at least one accessory dwelling unit, commonly referred to as in-law units or garage apartments, per single-family home. These additions would help increase the state's housing supply, especially in high-density population areas.

The remaining bills would divert some proceeds from lodging taxes to workforce and affordable housing programs, extend state programs to help homeowners navigate or avoid the foreclosure process and prevent landlords of manufactured housing communities from increasing rent with outstanding health and safety violations.

"Our housing policies need to change, as our times have changed," Huxtable said.

All seven bills await committee hearings in the General Assembly.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.