Cartier urged his County Council colleagues to get
serious about alleviating what he described as an
acute shortage of 'affordable' housing. They could
take an early step in that direction as soon as
their next session.
Reporting on a national
conference on the topic which he recently attended, Cartier
told Council's land use committee that median family income
in the county is $52,400 a year, which would qualify for a
$157,000 mortgage, while the median price of a house is
$199,000. Median refers to the statistical midpoint in a
sample, with an equal number of, in this case, houses
commanding higher and lower prices.
Developers, he said, are
currently building houses which far exceed the ability of a
majority of county residents to afford them. "We're not
talking about poverty; we're talking about working people,"
Using the analogy of a
ladder, he added, "We've cut off the bottom two rungs."
In a separate but tangently
related matter, Council president Paul Clark told the
committee meeting on Oct. 18 that he intends to move at
Council's Oct. 25 session for passage of a controversial
pending ordinance to eliminate the requirement for a
so-called '3.319' hearing when development plans seek
greater building density in return for setting aside
relatively large amounts of open space. The number
designation refers to the paragraph in the Unified
Development Code which sets forth the requirement.
He drew immediate direct fire
from council members David Tackett, Patty Powell and William
Bell who objected to the fact that the measure also would do
away with Council's ability to approve or reject that kind
of plan. They would be treated like any other subdivision
plan where Council action is limited to ratifying Department
of Land Use approval or returning it to the department for
further determination of whether and how it meets the
technical requirements of the Unified Development Code.
Powell and Bell represent
constituencies in the area of the county south of the
Chesapeake & Delaware Canal where most future residential
growth is expected to occur.
Saying that he approves the
concept of encouraging so-called 'cluster development' and
acknowledging that the ordinance would do that, Tackett
said, "A better job is not going to entail me giving up my
Eliminating the hearings and
denying their elected representatives the right to vote
removes the public from their right to be involved in the
approval process, Powell said.
The pending ordinance does
provide for the Planning Board to hold a public hearing on
all major development plans at the early exploratory phase
of the approval process. Tackett pointed out, however, that
plans frequently are significantly altered as they go
through the process. "What we're told at the beginning is
not what we get at the end," he said.
"Fear of [Council's] vote is
what turns their (developers') way into cookie-cutter
development," Clark said. "The housing [development]
community said, 'I'm not going to get involved in that'
[because of] the uncertainty."
commonly translates as allowing more townhouses to be built.
Robert Weiner further defined the basis for opposition.
"This is about keeping 'those kind of people' out," he said.
Weiner, who originally
proposed doing away with '3.319' hearings, is co-sponsoring
the ordinance. He endorsed Clark's approach as "greatly
improved over the original version I sponsored."
William Tansey said '3.319'
hearings seldom get into the issues they were intended to
address; namely, environmental impact from a proposed
project and compatibility with the 'neighborhood character'
of the surrounding area. "They talk about everything else
but that," he said.
Requiring special hearings
for more-dense development "helped to give a stigma to
townhouse development," Penrose Hollins said.
The '3.319' discussion
provided an unplanned segueway into talking about
"The reason we have no
'affordable' housing in New Castle County is the Unified
Development Code," Weiner said. "If we don't look at it
soon, there will be no place to build 'affordable' housing."
That is what Cartier proposed
doing. He called for immediately "opening a dialogue with
the public and [the] development community" toward that end.
He said such discussion should be thorough and could take as
long as a year.
"We need to produce [housing]
options in the county," he said.
"We're not providing any
'affordable' housing and we on Council are not doing
anything about it," Powell said.
Cartier proposed adopting 'inclusionary
zoning' aimed at generating "vibrant, mixed-income
communities." He defined that as requiring major
developments "to provide a percentage of dwelling units for
sale at the median-income level or at some percentage of
median income." He said other counties and jurisdictions in
the nation have such codes.
"We have a great movement
going on and it's gaining strength," he said.
Noting that his
involvement with the future of the Brookview apartment
complex in Claymont and the newly formed Brookview tenants
council awakened him to the "'affordable' housing crisis,"
Cartier said that in the redeveloped Brookview "we're going
to have an 'affordable' set-aside -- 10% on site and 10% off
site." He did not elaborate on that point.,
Weiner proposed referring to
'affordable' housing as 'workforce' housing, which he said
would be a more accurate and less divisive description.
"Call it 'workforce' housing and the stigma goes away," he