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November 16, 2005

 

At least 163 of the approximately 400 households now living in the Brookview apartments complex want to remain in the Claymont area. The county Department of Community Service will try to help them do that, according to general manager Anne Farley.

She told County Council's community service committee that her department and the recently formed Brookview Tenant Council are collaborating on determining needs and desires of present residents as a result of plans to redevelop the complex, which will most likely displace most, if not all, of them.

A four-point 'community action plan' which she presented to the committee on Nov. 15 provides for:

Assistance to 40 or more families to receive counseling leading to their possibly owning a home;

Financial help for the 13 families with 'Section 8' vouchers to relocate;

Referral of residents who desire assistance to the appropriate social services and other agencies; and

Assuring that "current Brookview residents have safe and affordable rental housing, assisted housing or [opportunity to] become home owners."

The county government initiative was sparked by County Councilman John Cartier, who was instrumental in organizing the tenants council.

The initiative got off to a good start, Farley said, with an unusually high level of response to a survey conducted by tenants council volunteers during September and October. Responses were received from 221 households, most of whom were interviewed in their units. Twenty completed survey forms were returned by mail after the interview team, finding no one at home, left them at the doors.

Many residents added comments in addition to responding to the survey questions. Most frequently stated was a desire to be kept better informed of the status of development plans and the timetable for moving forward with it.

A joint venture of two local companies, Commonwealth Group and Setting Properties, has put forth a conceptual plan for redeveloping Brookview into a community of up to 1,200 residential units of various kinds. Commonwealth has acquired the property and is managing the complex of 633 apartment units, which Farley said currently is about 63% occupied.

Pending a more detailed analysis of demographic information the survey obtained, she said an initial tabulation revealed a more diverse community than has generally been supposed.

About a third of the residents responding to the survey have lived there for more than two years and another third for fewer than two years. Three-fourths are employed and about a fourth are working in the Claymont area. There are children in about half of the households but, somewhat surprisingly, only about a third of them have only one adult. Average household size is 2.8 persons. Only about 7% of the households are classed as seniors, age 62 or older. Exactly half the responders are black, 23% white and 15% Hispanic.

"It's very important that we are cognizant of the diversity there," Farley said.

A third of the respondents reported annual incomes 'around' $15,000 and another 36% said they earn 'around' $22,750. That poses an obvious problem relative to housing, she said, because a majority of Brookview residents would qualify, under Delaware Housing Authority guides, only to purchase a house selling for $64,500. The average residential selling price in New Castle County is $197,000. An income of $25,000 is considered necessary to afford a monthly rent of $550 and there is, according to the latest housing survey, a 'gap' of more than 6,200 units in that price range. The average Brookview rent is $582, Farley said.

Although a majority of survey respondents are working, she said about three-fourths of the households are at or below the federal poverty level, based on family size. Of the respondents, 54% are receiving some form of public assistance.

2005. All rights reserved.

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