Plan to turn more vacant Delaware homes into occupied homes

Down-payment and settlement assistance loans are among the incentives of a new program in northern Delaware designed to boost the sales of vacant homes.

New Castle County announced a federally-funded Vacant Homebuyer Assistance Program Wednesday, focusing on several ZIP codes outside of Wilmington, which has a similar program. 

“It’s a new loan program created to address the issues of long-term vacant homes in communities throughout New Castle County, and stimulate sales of these properties,” New Castle County’ Assistant Community Services Administrator Norman Spector said. 

A family of four making $96,500 or less a year could qualify for the loan of up to $10,000, which would be forgiven if the owner remains in the property for at least five years.  The goal is to get occupants into homes that have been vacant for at least 90 days. 

New Castle County Community Services General Manager Marcus Henry said the program will help stabilize the local housing market, as well as certain neighborhoods with vacant properties. 

“One blighted home, unfortunately, can bring down property values in a given area,” Henry said.  “Through this program you help to stabilize the housing market, stabilize the neighborhood, and assist those families in need who could otherwise be in a home except for the downturn in the market.” 

The vacant homes are in a variety of conditions, and are within ZIP codes 19702, 19701, 19805, 19802, 19709, and 19720, as well as sections of Edgemoor and Claymont. 

Lenders and housing counselors on hand for the presentation said potential buyers should not be scared off by the term “vacant property.” 

“Properties that are vacant, right now in this housing market, there’s not a lot wrong with them,” Lanora DiStasio of Allied Mortgage said.  “A vacant home just means that someone could not possibly pay the mortgage anymore.”

“It doesn’t mean that the house is falling apart.” 

Wilmington Neighborhood House Housing Director Brenda Dryden is also encouraged about the VHAP initiative.  “A lot of people nowadays are paying such high rent, and they do qualify to purchase homes.  They just may not have the money to put towards down payment or settlement costs,” Dryden said. 

New Castle County Council voted in September to set aside $200,000 in federal funding made available from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Henry said an existing program in the County resulted in the purchase of nearly 60 homes. 

To find out more about the New Castle County Vacant Homebuyer Assistance program, visit www.nccde.org/nsp or call 302-395-5618.

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