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Delaware Senate Democrats

Sen. Huxtable sponsors 7 bills to address Delaware housing crisis

March 21, 2024

DOVER – Delaware families struggling to find safe and affordable places to live amid inventory shortages, soaring prices, and systemic barriers to homeownership could soon find some relief thanks to legislation introduced Thursday by Sen. Russell Huxtable

The Housing Agenda is a bipartisan legislative package of seven bills that will help address Delaware’s ongoing housing crisis by incentivizing public and private investments in new construction, bolster existing state programs that help struggling families stay in their homes, and create new opportunities for higher density development in Delaware’s cities and towns.

“While we tend to describe the housing crisis as a single problem, Delaware is actually facing a web of complicated issues, layered on top of each other, that touch on everything from zoning and taxes to economic development and infrastructure,” said Sen. Huxtable, who currently serves as vice-chair of the Senate Housing and Land Use Committee following a 20-year professional career with affordable housing nonprofits.

“At the center of it all, however, is the simple fact that Delaware needs more housing units, and we need them available at a price range that more families can afford,” he said. “The bill package I am introducing today will give local governments more tools to help get more private developers into the game and provide more support to families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. This package is good for business, good for our communities and good for families. I am deeply grateful to my colleagues in the Delaware General Assembly who have committed their support to get these bills to Governor John Carney over the next three months.”

The Housing Agenda is supported by Housing Alliance Delaware, a statewide nonprofit that works to solve homelessness by addressing affordable housing needs.

“We are happy to see Senator Huxtable introduce this package of housing bills,” said Rachel Stucker, executive director of Housing Alliance Delaware. “Together, they will do a number of things to help address Delaware’s affordable housing crisis – like decreasing regulatory barriers, ensuring the ongoing success of existing programs, and making some additional funds available for affordable housing development, which is sorely needed.”

The bipartisan Housing Agenda package introduced by Sen. Huxtable and 29 co-sponsors includes:

Senate Bill 22, co-sponsored by Rep. Bill Bush, would create new state incentives to help spur workforce housing development. Modeled on the Delaware State Housing Authority’s highly successful Downtown Development District Program first launched in 2014, the new Delaware Workforce Housing Program would offer grants of up to 20% of the construction costs for qualified housing projects largely centered in and around high-density population areas.

Senate Bill 23, co-sponsored by House Majority Whip Rep. Kerri Evelyn Harris, would require counties and municipalities in Delaware to develop ordinances that allow for the construction of at least one accessory dwelling unit per single-family home by right within their jurisdictions. Sometimes known as in-law units or garage apartments, ADUs provide valuable and convenient dwelling units that can help increase Delaware’s housing supply, especially in high-density population areas.  

Senate Bill 25, co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, would lower the cost of building new affordable housing projects statewide by fully exempting low-to-moderate-income dwelling units from the state’s 2% improvement tax, which is currently levied on new construction valued at $10,001 or more built within a year of the land being sold. 

Senate Bill 244, co-sponsored by House Housing Committee Chair Rep. Kendra Johnson, would authorize any county that collects a lodging tax to allocate some or all the proceeds for workforce and affordable housing programs within that respective county. Currently, New Castle and Sussex counties collect a lodging tax with limitations on how those funds can be spent.

Senate Bill 245, co-sponsored by Rep. Johnson, would extend the Office of Foreclosure Prevention and Financial Education and the Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program permanently.  While both were created as temporary programs in the wake of the Great Recession, their sunset dates have been extended multiple times to help homeowners navigate or avoid the foreclosure process. SB 247 would remove the sunset dates from both programs.

Senate Bill 246, co-sponsored by Rep. Stell Parker Selby, would create a dedicated revolving loan fund to help support the home repair programs that the Delaware State Housing Authority has operated for more than 30 years. Using seed money from the General Fund and gifts or bequests from private residents, the Housing Repair and Modification Fund would support eligible repairs that help protect the health of struggling families and help them stay in their homes longer.

Senate Bill 247, co-sponsored by Rep. Harris, continues the work that Sen. Jack Walsh began in 2022 to protect residents of manufactured housing communities from landlords who seek to impose rent increases even while refusing to address outstanding health and safety violations. SB 249 would create a clearer and more workable system for ensuring that manufactured housing community owners are unable to raise rents within 12 months of recording a health and safety violation.

“We are fully committed to tackling the housing issues we are seeing across the state and easing the crushing burden of housing costs on everyday Delawareans,” Rep. Harris and Rep. Johnson said in a joint statement. “This package represents an important first step in increasing affordable workforce housing, addressing barriers to homeownership, and protecting our most vulnerable residents.”

The introduction of the Housing Agenda legislative package follows Sen. Huxtable’s Affordable Housing Listening Tour in which he held town halls in Lewes, Dover, Newark, Georgetown, and Wilmington from September to November of 2023.

The listening tour engaged government officials, real estate developers, community advocates and members of the public in discussions about the ways the national housing crisis is impacting their communities and encouraged feedback on potential solutions.

“We heard a lot of frustrations and some heartbreaking stories this fall about the many ways in which Delaware’s fractured planning and zoning systems have created a lot of red tape and very little accountability for the big picture when it comes to housing,” Sen. Huxtable said. “My hope is that the success of this bill package will marking meaningful progress in our ongoing work to solve Delaware’s housing crisis.”