New Castle County officials report the Vacant Spaces to Livable Places initiative has driven a more than 30 percent reduction in the number of vacant properties in unincorporated New Castle County since 2017.
According to the county, the number of vacant properties in unincorporated New Castle County dropped from 1,350 in April 2017 to 948 in January 2019.
A spokesperson for County Executive Matt Meyer says when his administration launched the effort, the number of vacant properties in the County had been rising steadily for about a decade. He says the initiative reversed this trend— and recovered about a million dollars in delinquent taxes and fees.
County Executive Matt Meyer says vacant properties can take a toll on a neighborhood. “All sorts of studies show they increase crime in neighborhoods and decrease area property values, especially where there’s a concentration,” he said.
Meyer says the initiative involved strengthening the county's vacant property registry and securing changes to state and county law to expand county authority. The county also received state grants for maintenance of vacant properties, revitalization along the Route 9 Corridor and neighborhood planning in Edgemoor Gardens and Sparrow Run.
Three previously vacant properties in Edgemoor have been bought back by the county, and two are on the county’s radar. Karen Cheeseman of the Edgemoor Revitalization Cooperative says vacant properties impact her community. “It brings it down quite a bit,” she said. “Because people break into it, just scrap whatever they can scrap out of the houses.”
Cheeseman says she wants the county to use the initiative to boost homeownership in her community.
“If they can get the funding to move as quickly as they could,” she said. “And have first-time home buyers with stipulations in the deed, so they cannot be rented out. Because right now we’re like 75 percent rental and we’re trying to turn that back into homeownership.”
Aundrea Almond, Meyer's chief of staff, says at least one rehabilitated property in Edgemoor Gardens will likely have such deed restrictions.
Almond says officials plan to continue the work on vacant residential properties and expand the initiative to include vacant commercial properties and lots in the future.