White, of Community Legal Aid, told the Claymont Community
Coalition that requiring landlords to take out, and pay for, a
permit for each rental units would "trickle down" in the form of
rent hikes which would put more than a third of all renters in
the county "at risk of becoming homeless."
Delaware Housing Authority data, he said that proportion of
households spend more than 30% of their income to pay for rent
and utilities -- a level considered to be the threshold of
unaffordability. "It sounds great to impose costs on landlords,
[but] the truth is they're not imposed on landlords. They're
imposed on my people (clients)," he said.
Haggerty, assistant general manager of the land use department,
did not respond directly to that assertion, but said permitting
provides an effective way to enforce property codes because it
confronts violators who refuse to remedy conditions which don't
measure up to minimum requirements with the possibility of
losing the right to rent the property.
payment of a licensing fee, he said, is akin to charging
developers, tradesmen and others who use department services
fees to cover at least part of the cost of providing those
proposed rental code ordinance now before County Council would
require owners of rental properties to register each unit and to
provide up-to-date information on how to contact a locally-based
individual responsible for the properties. There would be no
cost to register or periodically update information.
Claymont Coalition meeting on Dec. 18 was the first public
discussion of the issue since Council president Christopher
Coons two evenings earlier introduced the ordinance drafted by a
diverse taskforce which he convened over a span of 18 months.
As previously reported by Delaforum, the land use department has drafted and circulated a different
could act on Coons's proposal as early as Jan. 13, but that
seems unlikely because another Council member could introduce
the competing ordinance and widespread interest the issue has
sparked would seem to mitigate against quick action. About a
quarter of all county residents are said to live in rental
Haggerty and Fred Quercetti, owner of Naamans Apartments and
president of the Delaware Apartment Association, pointedly
praised each other and other taskforce participants at the
coalition meeting. "We are not fundamentally that far apart,"
Haggerty said. Whether that signals the possibility of
compromise is unclear.
who was not at the coalition meeting, has yielded on one
relatively minor but nevertheless controversial point. The
measure he introduced is labeled as a substitute for a proposed
ordinance previously circulated and discussed in public, but not
actually introduced into Council. The substitute eliminates a
so-called 'sunset' provision which would automatically terminate
the law if it is not specifically renewed after two years. In
its place is a provision that would require the law to be
reviewed at that point.
is to deal with substandard housing without shooting ourselves
in the foot," said Quercetti, who also was a member of the Coons
taskforce. "We have to make sure we don't chase investment
larger metropolitan areas, he said, the condition of housing in
northern Delaware is dependent upon owners, many of whom are
based out of state, investing in rehabilitating older buildings.
Current interest in such investment would be stymied by
precipitous action, he maintained. Since the market is
relatively limited, that requires a measured approach, he said.
a reasonable approach is the taskforce's proposal," he said. He
called it "a consensus docment that has real hope [of] solving
the problem" of substandard units.
said the department favors "a more systematic approach" to
inspections than would be mandated by the random system which
Coons's ordinance would impose. The first two or three years
after enactment of an ordinance should be spent concentrating on
"addressing the more problematic units."
said the pamphlet which landlords would have to provide to
present and future tenants will go a long way in uncovering
problems. "It's going to generate a lot of calls to [the] land
use [department]," he said.
that the document was subject to undue landlord influence. "I
drafted it on my computer," he said, pointing out that it
provides avenues to that tenants can follow to have problems
rectified. It is based on his 13 years of professional
experience as an advocate for tenants, who are mostly people
with low incomes and lacking a good deal of sophistication.
not generally realized, he added, is that the code enforcers in
the land use department already have the power to deal with bad
situation. With 'probable cause', they can inspect any housing
unit and penalize recalcitrant landlords.
inspection system supplementing inspections in response to
complaints from tenants and neighboring residents would measure
how extensive the substandard housing problem really is, he