New Castle County and the City of Wilmington want public feedback on how to spend future federal housing and community development funds.
Both local governments held stakeholder and public meetings last week to identify affordable housing and community development needs over the next five years.
They are required to complete these annual and multi-year plans in order to continue receiving Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnerships and Emergency Solutions Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
At one meeting, Wilmington resident Jasmine Lilly called for more assistance for renters who earn too much to qualify for public housing, but not enough to afford market-rate housing.
“Do I sacrifice earning a living just so I can fall into the income requirements for low-income, or do I just struggle and pay my whole paycheck on bills, and I can’t eat, and I can’t live?” she asked.
Lilly says she has found many landlords in Wilmington require tenants to earn three times the rent for a market rate apartment. “It’s a struggle to meet that requirement.”
Other citizens mentioned the need for housing rehabilitation assistance and mediation with banks.
The HUD funds subject to the planning process are restricted to helping people below certain income thresholds.
Alan Matas with Wilmington’s Department of Real Estate and Housing says there is a “spectrum” of ways the funds can be used. “We do tree planting, we do counseling for people who have bad credit, we build homes, we help people with AIDS, we help people who are homeless,” he said.
Much of the funding goes through the local governments to nonprofit organizations which carry out the projects. Matas says Wilmington has invested the type of funds subject to the plan in senior housing projects at Ingleside and the Village of St. Johns.
Matas says affordable housing is a persistent issue nationwide. “When I started, it used to be that you would never pay more than 30 percent of your income for housing. Now it’s past 50, 60, 70 percent of your income,” he said. “Wages don’t increase as fast as the cost of housing.”
The City and County are also collecting feedback through online surveys in English and Spanish through Jan. 24.
Lilly hopes citizens participate in the planning process. “Our voices need to be heard,” she said