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Sussex County Council makes another move to promote affordable housing

Milton Pratt
Delaware Public Media

Sussex County Council passes an ordinance aimed at boosting the county’s housing stock with new rules to promote affordability.

The ordinance amends County code dealing with accessory dwelling units (ADUs) – or living spaces secondary to primary residences.

It reclassifies garage/studio apartments labeling them as ADUs, and it also broadens the rules for where and how the secondary housing is implemented.

The changes were made to be consistent with state and federal code and to promote affordable housing in Sussex County.

They include applicants not being required to go before the Board of Adjustments for special use approval to include an ADU on a residential lot as well as allowing units to have self-contained kitchen space.

Council President Michael Vincent.

"At the end of the day if something shows up after we pass this that is an issue we will certainly go back and revisit it. This is not cast in stone there forever can't do anything with it. So I mean it's just brand new to us. It's a starting point, I think it's a good one, but it's a starting point,” said Vincent. “If something does show up next month, next year or whatever, Council can always go back and revisit and say this has become a problem we want to address this in some manner."

The ordinance is only for unincorporated parts of Sussex County not municipalities.

And Councilman Mark Schaeffer notes there are limitations - including Homeowner Association rules.

"This does not override HOA requirements. So we are not overriding any subdivision HOA rules and regulations. I don't want to get 100 phone calls on that, so we want to make that perfectly clear," said Schaeffer.

Private deed restrictions also take precedence over the new rules.

Also, any lot that includes an ADU would still be required to have adequate sewer capacity and be reviewed by County staff to ensure appropriate setbacks.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.