Hearing: Nothing but love for affordable housing bills

Peter OsborneGovernment, Headlines


A Senate housing committee essential staged a love-in for a package of bills designed to stimulate the building of affordable housing.

The words “love fest” and “legislative hearing” rarely appear together, but that was the tone  during a Delaware Senate Housing & Land Use committee hearing this week on a five-bill affordable housing package submitted by Sen. Russell Huxtable (D-Lewes).

Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-Bear, even said she’s never seen such minimal opposition to legislation like the housing package.

It was promoted by Huxtable as essentially being focused on increasing supply by using carrots instead of sticks.

“We’re going through an unprecedented housing crisis with really long waitlists for newly available units,” Huxtable said in his opening remarks.

He noted that the 2023 DSHA Housing Needs Assessment indicated the state needs an additional 19,000 affordable units and that 8% of Delawareans are homeless, living in cars, or couch surfing.”

The bills being heard Wednesday were 5 of a 7-bill package heralded as bipartisan legislation. 

Huxtable housing background

Huxtable, who spent two decades working with local nonprofits committed to helping Delaware families find affordable housing, put the package together after a state listening tour focused on the issue.


Russell Huxtable

Reaction from committee members and speakers was nearly uniformly positive.

Speakers from Housing Alliance Delaware, NeighborGood Partners, Delaware Affordable Housing Coalition, Home Builders Association of Delaware, the YWCA of Delaware, Delaware Association of Realtors, and the Delaware Department of Justice offered unanimous support.

Some commenters also advocated for additional funding, even if it requires reallocation of funding from other state initiatives. 

“I’m thrilled to see this thoughtful slate of bills,” said affordable-housing developer Sean Kelly of Leon N. Weiner & Associates. “We do need to cobble together resources to keep housing affordable and encourage expansion of reach to allow these subsidies to be used with other programs.”

The one hint of disagreement during the hearing surrounded the lack of fiscal notes outlining the implementation costs and impact on the state budget. 

Questions about fiscal notes

Asked by Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover, whether the lack of fiscal notes required a “leap of faith,” Huxtable said the formula is a complicated equation given the lack of previous funding but he’s optimistic about revenue offsets tied to new jobs and additional investment interest by municipalities and others.

Sen. Eric Buckson permit

Eric Buckson

“It’s a great space and I want to help, but I’d like a general understanding of what kind of number we’re looking at,” said Buckson.

He did not get a specific answer from a state finance official regarding the transfer-tax issue beyond the situation being few and far between. 

Buckson did note, however, the package “transcends party lines” and is designed to allow state agencies like DSHA to attract other resources from the federal government and elsewhere.

What was scheduled to be a two-hour hearing was done in just over an hour.

The bills, which were all forwarded on to the full Senate after the hearing, were:

  • SB 244, which allows a county that imposes a lodging tax to spend money from that tax on workforce and affordable housing programs.
  • SB 25, which exempts contracts for the construction of affordable housing units from the 2% realty transfer tax assessed for improvements. During the discussion, Home Builders of Delaware Executive Officer Katie Gillis noted that Delaware has the highest realty-transfer tax in the nation and the state should look at applying the waiver to other types of units.
  • SB 22, which establishes a Delaware Workforce Housing Program modeled after the Downtown Development District Program and allows for a grant up to 20 percent of the capital costs tied to creation of workforce housing unit. Huxtable related a story about people he ran into over the course of a day doing errands who had built using funds from this self-help housing program.
  • SB 245, which removes sunsets for the Office of Foreclosure Prevention and Financial Education and the Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program, which was created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and funded by the Department of Justice.
  • SB 246, which codifies the Delaware State Housing Authority’s Housing Repair and Modification Fund serving low- and very-low income homeowners in need of home-repair assistance. Huxtable said the program helps Delawareans be “warmer, safer, and drier and gives them peace of mind,” adding that he ran into a local schoolteacher who received money from the fund and told him it “rained last night and I didn’t even know” because her roof didn’t leak.

SB 246 was particularly popular among the attendees.

FROM LEGHALL: So many people had something to say about a proposed homeless bill of rights, the discussion was continued

Housing Alliance Policy Director Sonya Starr reminded the audience that the DSHA’s Needs Assessment report said 12.5% of homes need these kinds of programs.

She said of the Delawareans choosing to live in homes that are not in code, 21% are single parents and 7% are over 65, with an additional risk of these homes being rising utility prices.

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