Legislation gives local government more tools in combating housing blight

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Gov. John Carney on signed into law House Bills 187 and 188. The legislation provides local government with more tools in dealing with blighted housing.

The bill passed the General Assembly unanimously in June.

Governor Carney signed the legislation at a vacant home purchased by New Castle County with state funds as part of an anti-blight initiative in the Garfield Park community near New Castle.

House Bill 187 will allow local governments to prequalify bidders at sheriff’s sales to restrict bidders who are delinquent on property taxes or violating property maintenance codes. House Bill 188 will allow local governments to place a lien on a vacant property in violation of maintenance standards to recoup enforcement and abatement costs.

Vacant and abandoned homes become breeding grounds for drug activity and targets for arsonists. A few such homes can drag down property values in the entire neighborhood and accelerate their decline Also, a sluggish economy and urban ills have held back the redevelopment of neighborhoods that has been seen elsewhere in the region.

“We want our neighbors to have pride in their communities, but housing vacancies overwhelm too many regions of our state and cause a host of problems in its tracks. House Bills 187 and 188 provide a beacon of light in those situations. With these bills, local governments are empowered to take charge of blight in these communities by ultimately working to return vacant properties to use and helping Delawareans restore that pride,” said Rep. James Johnson,D-New Castle, prime sponsor of the bills. “Our residents – and their homes- deserve that attention. By eliminating blight, we will be able to foster a new sense of community and responsibility.”

Areas of Johnson’s district have been the target of county anti-blight efforts.

“I have seen the negative effects that vacant, abandoned and blighted properties have on vibrant neighborhoods such as ours,” saidLee Jarmon, president of the Overview Gardens Garfield Park Civic Association. “I commend the state, county and other local leaders for working together to pass legislation to address and help to remedy this serious issue.”

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