Focus group on Sussex County housing needs

Editor:

The new “workforce housing and affordable housing” focus group has been forming. I will attend the May 21 public forum from 6 to 8 p.m., and all are welcome. I am promoting the May 21 public forum so we can learn from a variety of people who represent the various vantage points of the housing issues.

I will introduce a new worksheet called the “Martin’s Hierarchy of Housing Needs.” It is an easy-to-read colored chart created around my 11 years of experience in the trenches providing direct “eyeball to eyeball” services to the working poor.

Right now, we have zero units available in our County for affordable housing. We also have two- to five-year wait times, so sadly the car has become a new form of affordable housing for the waitlisted. Wouldn’t a tiny house be better than a car to live in? As rents and mortgages soar, more Sussex Countians are living behind their steering wheels in order to solve their own affordable housing crisis.

We hope this council implements the recommendations of the study regarding the necessary zoning changes needed to allow for higher densities. Right now, there is no zoning in Sussex County that allows for the higher density needed to even make it financially possible to build affordable units!

From what I can see from the history of other studies you have done in the past, I am wondering about all those professional planning recommendations that past councils have received. Report after report, recommendation after recommendation, and yet our problems are getting worse and worse each month.

For 10 years, we have known about the extreme need for zoning changes because of how the costs for land and infrastructure keep rising much faster than our employment wages.

In previous studies, you were recommended to establish mechanisms to ensure the availability of the housing units needed for affordable housing. With all these past reports, what problems are we solving?

We are now seeing people being wait-listed for two to five years, with no relief in sight for years to come! Is there a mechanism now set in place that says “X amount of affordable houses have to be built per every X amount of new homes”? How about the mandating the construction of hundreds of efficiency apartments? The units should be required to be built, no matter what.

Why are we holding people back? It is good for our local economy to keep people lower than low? What are the tasks of the “Affordable Housing Compliance Officer” and how does the Officer hold us accountable? How can we better help the Compliance Officer to encourage or enforce the development of more units for lower wage workers and the working poor? It was also recommended that county officials and staff undergo affordable-housing training, and I was curious if this training was completed.

I know that you care about your neighbors and about the topics we are bringing up, so I hope that it is your intention is to follow Lisa Sturtevant’s study recommendations and bring some relief to the thousands who are suffering.

I have an update on our proposal for the County-owned land where I hope to open a Sussex County vehicular and safe parking lot program located at 22308 DuPont Boulevard in Georgetown for six months. Because the County-owned land falls within the town limits of Georgetown, we visited Town Hall on April 30 and submitted a Pre-development Request for Meeting Form. We are expecting to have this meeting next week.

Thank you for your guidance during this rocky municipal path so far, and I do understand that I will need to return here to you for application and final approval, if and when I get approval from the Town.

 

Jim Martin, Director

Shepherd’s Office, Georgetown