My take: Delaware’s mid-level housing crisis

Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown

My take: Delaware’s mid-level housing crisis

In a recent newsletter from the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, President Michael J. Quaranta pointed out a serious situation facing Delaware – a lack of mid-level housing on top of a critical shortage of affordable housing for those with lower incomes.

Quaranta took note of a recent Forbes piece that used U.S. Postal Service information and moving company info to list the state’s with the most in-migration. Delaware ranked ninth among the 50 states based on Postal Service figures. No. 1 was Texas, followed by Florida.

What’s striking about these numbers is the migration ranking coming from households, rather than percentage growth rates.

Using the Postal Service figures, Texas gained 12,7000 households with Delaware coming at 2,200. (The Texas figure looks a little low to me, although Sun Belt states have their share of out-migration). Another reason for leaving – property taxes can on the hefty side in some areas of the Lone Star State (good schools don’t come cheap) partially offsetting an income tax-free status.


If you account for the vast differences in population between the two states, Delaware’s in-migration is the equivalent of 64,000 households moving to Texas. Add in another 6,000 and you have the population of Wilmington.

The Chamber president went on to outline a big problem resulting from our population surge.

Building permits for single family homes account for most of new residential construction with apartments and townhouses far behind. Worse yet, most of the growth in single families is in Sussex County, the area where many of the homes are built. Kent is seeing some growth, with New Castle County experiencing, small population gains despite near explosive growth in the Middletown area.

The Sussex surge is leading to other issues. This week we learned a developer is attempting to build homes adjacent to state forest land near Georgetown.

The development given the green-sounding Graylock Preserve , if given the OKt, would lead to acres of state forest trees being cut down to form a firebreak necessary in protecting homes. Other planned and current developments threaten fragile areas in the low-lying county.

The immediate issue, especially in Sussex, is finding and developing mid-level housing for healthcare staff, first responders and others providing the services for new residents. Many ae newcomers getting up in years.

It is interesting to note that a $27.5 million apartment project developed by Rehoboth-based Schell Brothers in a Richmond, VA suburb, was reccently been completed.

A project of that scope in Sussex would be a start if rents could be made affordable, if roads and other infrastructure are in place and if single-family neighbors would not object or, worse yet, snap up the units.

Such projects amount to a heavy lift and who knows, projects may already be in the works. Moreover, big ticket projects typically take a couple of years to complete. Any possible solution would require compromises and “out of the box thinking” from all involved.

Your thoughts and ideas on this topic, especially from those in the business, are welcome. Simply hit reply to this newsletter and type away. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.