What do these three things have in common?
· A 150-year-old home in Milford with peeling wallpaper transformed into a bright and vibrant bed and breakfast.
· A block of abandoned buildings in Wilmington being gutted and turned into new homes for residents to buy.
· And a closed restaurant in the heart of Dover redeveloped into a bustling eatery by a team of Air Force veterans.
Gov. John Carney and I had the opportunity to explore these projects - and a host of other similar success stories - during a recent statewide tour, visiting three communities that have seen substantial benefits from state investments over the last several years. The lessons we have learned have helped us refocus our efforts in strengthening communities, supporting our downtowns, and helping spread the message of #OptionsInDE.
At the Delaware State Housing Authority, we manage both housing and community development programs. Our goal is to provide support and resources to businesses, nonprofit partners and homeowners that will make our state grow stronger.
In Dover, we met with Michael Maupin, an investor who has built and is selling a string of townhomes on Reed Street, and got to see how he is putting Downtown Development District funds to work. That program provides grant rebates for qualified property investments for projects both large and small in eight designated districts in Dover, Georgetown, Harrington, Laurel, Milford, Seaford, Smyrna and Wilmington.
The DDD program has used $22 million in state funds to leverage $448 million in total investment. It has aided businesses like the Grey Fox Grille in Dover and engineering firm Davis, Bowen & Friedel in Milford expand and grow into new spaces, helping create and preserve jobs. It has supported continued redevelopment of Wilmington's Market Street and surrounding neighborhoods, including at Sterling Grille on Orange Street, where we sipped coffee as owner Joe Russo explained how the rebates had helped him redevelop the restaurant.
We also saw communities fighting back against the effects of foreclosures, vacant properties and abandoned homes with investments from the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund – changes that will fight crime and strengthen ties between neighbors. Financed by the bank settlements after the foreclosure crisis, this program has used $8.25 million to leverage a total investment of $25.8 million. More than 180 homes will eventually be built and sold to local low-income residents who will become homeowners.
In Wilmington, Carney climbed the stairs of a gutted building on 6th Street to see how crews from Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware were framing the new units and putting in insulation. On Governor’s Avenue, New Street, and Kirkwood Street in central Dover, nonprofit partners including NCALL Research, Milford Housing Development Corporation and Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity showed off new homes that have been either rehabbed or built anew from the ground up, replacing dilapidated homes or vacant lots.
None of this could be accomplished by just state government acting alone. Local businesses, nonprofit agencies and homeowners are our vital partners creating much-needed investments across Delaware. Governor Carney has committed Delaware government to supporting businesses and entrepreneurs in our new economic reality, and these revitalization efforts are targeted, coordinated, locally-driven investments that provide real benefits to ordinary Delawareans. We are proud of the work that has been achieved, and eager to keep moving forward and help our state grow stronger.
Anas Ben Addi is director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, which is the state’s community development agency, housing finance agency, and the public housing authority for Kent and Sussex counties. Learn more at destatehousing.com.