A Wilmington community group has formed looking to help guide the city's housing policies towards assisting those struggling to find and keep residences.
The H.O.M.E.S Campaign [Housing | Opportunity | Mobility | Equity | Stability ] made a presentation at last week's Wilmington City Council Meeting looking into landlord policies, but putting their focus as much on those trying to find homes of their own.
Shyanne Miller explained one of their missions.
"We want to protect the most vulnerable residents by ensuring that there is affordable and sufficient safe housing in the city, and we want to make sure that we are actually investing in our neighborhoods."
According to their research, in New Castle County only 32 available and affordable rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low income renter households.
They also cited a Prosperity Now Report that said 62% of Latinx renters are "cost-burdened" by their rents, while 60% of Blacks and 48% of Whites have the same issue of spending more than 30% of their income on rent.
Another aspect of their plan is to both regulate and promote landlord and tenant rights, making sure both sides of the housing equation know the rules.
The said they want a "fair, straightforward process to hold landlords/property owners accountable", while their presentation said the city needs to do a better job of education people about housing and dealing with housing issues.
Miller said she'd like to see any landlord fines go directly towards helping Wilmington's housing stock.
"Making sure that the city was investing in homeowner repair grants, down payment settlement assistance, help people become homeowners, help people stay homeowners. Making sure that we're not kicking people out of homes because they can't pay their water bills, no more water bill foreclosures."
Under Wilmington's City Charter, all fines go into the housing fund, but City Councilwoman Maria Cabrera told the group that the Mayor is open to putting a line item in the budget process to help get money into those types of causes.
Another issue both H.O.M.E.S and Cabrera agreed on was the need to improve the situation for those exiting prison.
"Making sure that we are providing opportunities for people who are returning home from prison to access public housing," Miller said. "This is a public safety issue, this is a morality issue, if someone has done their time and they have come home from prison, we should not continue to discriminate against them."
Cabrera said that is an issue she wants to have more discussion on, as she sees it as one way to start to help fight Wilmington's crime rate.
"I'm specifically interested, especially when people are coming out of prison because they have a record or HUD Housing they're not allowed to live there. They just end up being displaced, they can't get a job or have a place to live, I think that is a very big issue that leads to recidivism."
H.O.M.E.S also said they'd like to see better housing solutions for those already homeless, including pubic storage lockers, repealing laws that criminalize unhoused, and also developing plans for youth.
They also want to see the Department of Correction provide a 12-month housing plan, and remove criminal history questions from housing applications.
H.O.M.E.S. is also working to improve housing situations in New Castle County outside of Wilmington, along with Kent and Sussex Counties.