The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced close to $7 million total in annual capital funding for local housing authorities last week.
That is slightly more than the $6.4 million in total the authorities covering the state, Wilmington, Newark and Dover received last year. The money will help the authorities build, repair, renovate or modernize their public housing properties.
HUD Region 3 Administrator Joe DeFelice says the funding is for general upkeep of properties and large-scale improvement projects.
"[The funding can] replace old plumbing, electrical systems, things like that,” he said. “A lot of times we’ve been pushing more and more Rental Assistance Demonstration, … potentially getting private funding into housing, but this is a way that the current housing stock can be updated and fixed.”
DeFelice says fixing existing public housing stock has been an issue in Delaware.
“In Wilmington and in Newark, there is some older housing stock, but they have been utilizing and looking to the future to find different ways and different funding streams to upgrade their housing, and this is just another tool in the toolbox.”
The Wilmington Housing Authority received the largest annual capital grant— more than $4.8 million. The Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) received just over $1 million.
Jessica Eisenbrey, director of public relations at Delaware State Housing Authority, says DSHA plans to use the funding toward renovation of five public housing properties under HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program over the next five years.
“Renovation of the properties will include new kitchens, bathrooms, HVAC systems, appliances, and flooring for more than 280 apartment units at the public housing sites and renovations to make some of the units fully accessible,” Eisenbrey wrote in an email. “DSHA will also be replacing perimeter fencing at the five sites, encapsulating crawlspaces in 55 public housing units, and modernizing outdated playground equipment at two of the housing sites.”
DeFelice says HUD is moving toward allowing medium and small-sized housing authorities— in addition to large— more flexibility in the way they use their federal funds.
“So if your housing was for housing choice vouchers, it could only go to housing choice vouchers,” he said. “Now you can utilize that into your public housing … This is a way to make them better utilize the funds that they have without the strings attached. It’s really kind of a way of deregulating some of that.”