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Action Plan for Safe and Healthy Homes and Neighborhoods

To improve housing and revitalize neighborhoods, the Dept. of Licenses and Inspections and Wilmington City Council can immediately endorse and implement the following goals, strategies, and action steps.
Goal #1: Every rental property in the City of Wilmington is safe and meets basic housing maintenance requirements.

Strategy: Get all rental properties registered, inspected and maintained to a consistent standard.

Strategic Next Actions:

Department of Licenses and Inspections

  • Create six-month amnesty period for non-compliant landlords to register their properties.

  • Use city data systems to identify possible rental properties that are not registered

  • Reach out to every possible unregistered rental property in the city with information and deadlines for registration.

  • Use city data systems to sort rentals into categories (such as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3) based on history of code violations to prioritize properties for enforcement actions, such as scheduling an inspection, utilizing of the Nuisance Property Program, taking property owner to court, etc.

  • Create and implement system for regular inspections of all 15,000+ rental properties in the City of Wilmington, in coordination with new legislation from Wilmington City Council based on national best practices (see below).

  • Issue citations to rental property owners that are not meeting housing code standards, with a focus on health and safety issues, to bring them into compliance.

  • Escalate enforcement to get compliance, including issuing criminal summons and enforcing the Nuisance Property Law, against rental property owners that are neglecting their properties to get them to fix their properties.

Wilmington City Council

  • Revise rental property registration program to address known issues of staff capacity and challenges represented by LLC’s

    • Require a pre-rental inspection by a licensed housing inspector based on a standard checklist. Example: Baltimore County

    • Require names and contact information of beneficial owners for any property owner that is a business entity, including LLC, etc.

  • Establish a reasonable system for periodic required rental inspections

    • Focus inspection activities on properties with the most violations. Example: Minneapolis

    • Integrate inspection system with other property inspections landlords meet, such as Section 8, etc. Example: Seattle

    • Consider making rental property registration a requirement for evictions. Examples: New Jersey and Seattle

  • Increase penalties for non-compliance with rental property registration and inspection requirements

    • Increase fine for rental properties that are unregistered

    • Create and publicize a Problem Landlord list of landlords with a record of not maintaining their properties

  • ​Define problem landlord behavior (multiple significant health and safety violations) and create and enforce significant civil penalties for problem landlord behavior.

Goal #2: Every vacant property in the City of Wilmington is kept clean, secure and watertight

Strategy: Get all vacant properties registered, evaluated, and maintained to a consistent standard

Strategic Next Actions:

Department of Licenses and Inspections

  • Create six-month amnesty period for non-compliant owners to register their properties.

  • Use City data systems to identify possible vacant properties that are not registered.

  • Reach out to every probably vacant property owner in the city with information and deadlines for registration.

  • Evaluate every vacant property to determine if it is clean, secure, and watertight

  • Issue citations to vacant property owners that don't keep their properties clean, secure and watertight

  • Escalate enforcement to get compliance, including issuing criminal summons and enforcing the Nuisance Property Law, against vacant property owners that are neglecting their properties to get them to keep their vacant properties clean, secure and watertight.

  • Improve L&I’s existing program to take to scale a Clean and Lien Program that enables L&I to fix problems itself when property owners are unresponsive to citations related to high grass and weeds, trash, and unsecured properties, and bill the property owner for the expense.

  • Set minimum standards for boarding by L&I contractors to ensure that their boarding activities are effective

  • Establish additional standards for boarding related to openings that are repeatedly broken into.

Wilmington City Council

  • Revise Vacant Property Registration Program

  • Create a definition for “vacant” that excludes properties that are unoccupied but otherwise well maintained and ready for occupancy. Example: Baltimore

  • Require names and contact information of beneficial owners for any property owner that is a business entity, including LLC, etc.

  • Require every category of vacant property owner, including the City, Wilmington Land Bank, etc., to register vacant properties

  • Keep base rate registration rate linked to the actual cost of L&I’s activities related to vacant property management, including vacant property evaluations and maintenance.

  • Create Nuisance Vacant Property fine that imposes significant penalties on vacant properties owned by any category of owner that are not kept clean, secure, and water-tight

  • Prohibit property owners with a history of owning vacant properties, outstanding code violations, unpaid taxes or other delinquencies from purchasing city-foreclosed properties at sheriff’s sale. Example: New Castle County

 

Goal #3: Low-income homeowners are connected to resources to help them maintain their homes

 

Strategy: Create well-funded and well-publicized homeowner repair programs coupled with financial counseling funded by the City of Wilmington, the state, and other funding sources

Strategic Next Actions:

Wilmington City Council, City of Wilmington and partners

Goal #4: Vacant properties are brought back into use

Strategy: Promote homeownership and provide incentives for buying and renovating vacant properties

Strategic Next Actions:

 

Wilmington City Council, City of Wilmington, and partners

  • Expand, promote, and create programs to promote homeownership including:

  • Financial counseling for first-time homebuyers

  • Down-payment and settlement assistance for Wilmington residents becoming homeowners, other first-time homebuyers, and buyers of vacant properties who fix and occupy them. Example: Baltimore

  • Live Where You Work down-payment and settlement assistance for people employed in Wilmington who want to purchase a home here

  • Create incentive programs for buyers who renovate and occupy properties

Speak Up!

Call City Council at (302) 576-2140 or find the contact info for your Council Member here and ask them to Oppose "Blight Bill" Ordinance 19-026 and ask for the community to be involved in creating a balanced set of the policies like the ones outlined in the Action Plan for Safe and Healthy Homes and Neighborhoods to improve housing and strengthen neighborhoods!