I would like to commend the News Journal for the article focusing on the affordability of rental housing published on January 6th. The point of the article is important – many of our neighbors in this state have a very difficult time finding and keeping an affordable place to live.
We consider a household paying more than 30% of its income for rent to be cost burdened, and more than 50% of their income to be severely cost burdened. Over 35,000 families in Delaware (nearly half of all renters) are cost burdened and nearly half of those families (17,000) are severely cost burdened. What this really means is that the family is paying too much for rent compared to their income — putting stress on other expenses such as energy, food, clothing, school, etc (and we all know that those costs are escalating too). The problem is getting worse as we recover slowly from the economic recession. In 2000, 34% of renters in Delaware were cost-burdened; in 2010, an estimated 51% were cost-burdened. And the problem gets worse as you move down the income ranges.
The Delaware State Housing Authority is dedicated to providing, and helping others to provide, safe and affordable rental housing opportunities for Delaware’s low- and moderate-income families. We do this primarily by financing the development of affordable rental housing, which requires an investment from the State. Since the beginning of the Markell Administration, the state has invested $44 million into the Housing Development Fund which has leveraged more than $100 million in other private and public funds and resulted in the rehabilitation and construction of 921 affordable rental units at 19 sites across the state. This activity has also resulted in creating and sustaining nearly 900 jobs in the construction field – one hit hardest by the recession.
In addition to making sure there are units available, DSHA is also concerned with making sure people can find homes they can afford in the neighborhoods in which they want to live. To help on that front, we recently launched a free housing locator called DelawareHousingSearch.org, a web-based service that allows landlords to advertise their rental properties free of charge for which renters can also search free of charge. The website has been a great way to connect landlords with Delawareans in order to find the home that’s right for them. It was important to us to have a database of rental units available for individuals who may have unique needs. Through DelawareHousingSearch.org, individuals can find housing from private market units to assisted housing units and narrow their search by a variety of criteria.
DSHA and its partners work continually to find more creative ways to help meet the affordable rental housing needs here in Delaware, and we recognize that there is much more that needs to be done.