No new apartment projects have been
approved, nor even submitted for approval, since the Uniform Development Code
was enacted eight years ago. Councilman John Cartier sees that as undeniable
evidence that New Castle County is failing to provide housing for a significant
number of its citizens.
"Only two types of [housing]
products are being built -- 'mc-mansions' and 55-and-over. We're not looking at
entry-level housing at all," he said.
With a booming real estate
market and continuing demand for houses in the $400,000-and-up price range, it
is hardly unexpected that developers will focus on that most profitable segment
of the business. To the extent that they do to the exclusion of buyers of
considerably more modest means, Cartier is determined to bring county government
into the picture to redress the balance.
He told Delaforum he is looking
for "profound change" in the development code. "The U.D.C. is the biggest enemy
of working families," he said.
To bring that about he is
organizing what he expects to be a year-long effort to come up with an
pro-active policy to encourage -- and, to some extent, mandate -- 'affordable
housing' as a routine part of the development process. He plans to form a
taskforce of persons with interests in the topic, including civic
representatives, to craft 'inclusionary zoning' legislation.
While the term 'affordable
housing' itself tends to provoke opposition, Cartier doesn't believe public
opinion will be an impediment. There are relatively nearby county jurisdictions,
with affluence comparable to New Castle, where inclusion of such housing is
accepted practice, he said. Specifically, he cited Montgomery County, Md., and
Fairfax and Arlington Counties in Virginia, which are part of the Washington,
D.C., metropolitan area.
In his own district, he said,
there has been a not-widely-noted agreement which could signal the same thing
can happen here. As part of the evolving arrangement for redeveloping the
Brookview Apartments complex, the Commonwealth Group-Setting Properties joint
venture has agreed that 10% of the units in the new community will be
'affordable' and to provide an equal number of such units in the vicinity.
Cartier said that could be done by acquiring scattered properties in the
Claymont area and rehabilitating or replacing existing substandard housing.
The councilman said his interest
in the topic was sparked by his involvement with the Brookview proposal and the
issue of relocating present tenants of the complex. "This is not just about
Brookview. It goes well beyond Brookview [and is] something we have to address
countywide," he said.
The changes he hopes to bring
about are not anti-Unified Development Code, he added. The model code
effectively removed politics -- and potential for corruption -- from the
land-use approval process while guaranteeing that proposed developments meet all
the technical requirements before being approved, he said.
Cartier agreed that the biggest
hurdle in the way of public acceptance is to disassociate 'affordable' housing
from public housing or housing for the poor. The former looks to provide housing
for which households earning around 80% of the area's median annual income can
qualify for a mortgage loan. Median income is the point on the scale where an
equal number of households are earning more and are earning less. In New Castle
County, that's about $54,000, he said.
Cartier and other proponents
favor using 'workforce housing' as a more descriptive and less provocative
designation. Buyers would include "your typical county employee, young teachers,
beginning professionals" and the like, he said.
In the Washington area, he said,
such housing can be designed to be undistinguishable on the outside and blend in
with more expensive structures. One innovative technique he found on a recent
visit was to subdivide a large housing into four condominium apartment units.
to read previous Delaforum article.
The financial services sector -- a major
component of the Delaware economy -- is one of the most aggressive when it comes
to 'outsourcing' technical and support operations to low-wage counties.
The Charlotte Observer took a close look at what's happening as it relates to
Bank of America and Wachovia, which are based in the North Carolina city but
also are important in the Wilmington area.
to read the article.
A few weeks ago, banners outside every Lowe's store in the nation announced a sale on "Holiday Trees." Hundreds of Christians called to complain that the home-improvement chain was shunning Christmas.
The banners came down. Now the fake firs and pines are clearly labeled "Christmas Trees."