Vacant Spaces to Livable Places
New Castle County recognizes that vacant and abandoned properties become breeding grounds for crime, are targets for arson and become a health and safety hazard for their surrounding communities. These properties also drive additional costs to taxpayers by diverting public safety resources and forcing county government to pay for basic property maintenance, grass mowing, trash collection and illegal dumping. Additionally, vacant and abandoned housing has been shown to depress neighborhood property values and reduce tax revenues that fund critical public services.
But no more! New Castle County’s Vacant Spaces to Livable Places program is an exciting new initiative that encourages the redevelopment of vacant properties into healthy, livable homes in order to remove community eyesores and stabilize neighborhoods. Read more about it below.
- 2022 Vacant Spaces to Livable Places Community Update Executive Summary
- 2022 Vacant Spaces to Livable Places Community Update Full Report
County Executive Meyer announces National Association of Counties recognition of Vacant Spaces to Livable Places!
VSLP is a multi-agency effort addressing vacant housing and repurposing properties for occupied homes and improved communities.
Since the beginning of the program, New Castle County has collected over $3.5 million in delinquent taxes and turned more than 700 vacant homes and lots into occupied homes.
Each year, NACo’s Achievement Awards are given in 18 categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and more. Launched in 1970, the program is designed to recognize innovation in county government. Each nominated program is judged on its own merits and not against other applications.
“The Achievement Awards demonstrate excellence in county government and the commitment to serve our residents every day,” said NACo President Denise Winfrey. “This year’s winners represent some of the most innovative and collaborative efforts we have seen in over 50 years of presenting these awards.”
In April 2023, New Castle County was invited to present the Vacant Spaces to Livable Places Program at the national American Planning Association Annual Conference in April 2023. Held annually, and this year in Philadelphia, county officials presented the program to over 300 professional planners, engineers, government officials, and advocates.
Representing New Castle County were:
- Aundrea Almond, Chief of Staff
- Richard Hall, AICP, Department of Land Use
- Carrie Casey, Department of Community Services
- Joseph Day, Department of Land Use
Vacant and blighted properties, which can lead to increased crime and other unsavory behavior, are an important issue in maintaining and revitalizing healthy communities. Strategic management of vacant properties has been successful in addressing these issues, which in turn helps to preserve surrounding property values and reduce maintenance costs to local governments.
County Executive Meyer formed the New Castle County Vacant Housing Working Group in an effort to have all county departments leverage their collective resources to address this growing problem. In addition to the County Executive's Office, other working group members include the Departments of Land Use, Community Services, Law, Finance and Public Safety, as well as County Council and the Sheriff's Office.
In addition to the utilization of county resources, several grants have been applied for and received by the County including a $100,000 grant from the Delaware State Housing Authority to be applied towards the maintenance of vacant properties, a $1.3 Million grant from the Delaware State Housing Authority to develop and rehabilitate properties along the Route 9 corridor, and a $25,000 planning grant from the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) to develop community plans for Edgemoor Gardens and Sparrow Run, which have very high rates of vacancy, crime and blight.
New Castle County’s vision is to create a program that allows vacant properties to be occupied by new homeowners or redeveloped without the need for a long foreclosure process or significant investment by taxpayers.
Any property located within unincorporated New Castle County becoming vacant of occupancy for more 90 days, must be annually registered as a vacant property with the Department of Land Use.
While the property is vacant, owners are still required to secure and arrange for basic property maintenance throughout the period of vacancy.
Basic property maintenance includes grass cutting, garbage removal and securing any/all openings in the structure. Should New Castle County be forced to provide maintenance services, violations and fees shall be accessed.
To learn more about the Vacant Property Registration process, please visit the website.
To learn more about Property Maintenance Violations, please visit the website.
Need help purchasing or maintaining your home?
New Castle County offers down payment and settlement assistance for low and moderate income households to purchase a home. Additional information can be found here.
The County also offers a variety of affordable home repair programs designed to enable qualified homeowners to have repairs made which are necessary to free their homes of health and safety hazards. Please contact the Department of Community Services at (302) 395-5600 or visit their website to learn more.
Vacant properties are generally disposed of through the New Castle County Sheriff Sale Process or offered on the open market by way of the RFP process.
Sheriff Sale Information
In order to bid on properties taken to Sheriff Sale, there are two required certifications for all bidders and assignees:
• No outstanding liens owed to governmental entities in excess of $1,000 on New Castle County property.
• No ownership of property that has been vacant for 18 consecutive months unless there is a valid building permit or pending land use application.
Learn more here: Sheriff Sale Bidder Prequalification Facts
For more information regarding the sheriff sale process, please contact the Sheriff's Office at (302) 395-8450 or view their website.
Occasionally the County will offer properties for sale via the request for proposal (RFP) process. All RFPs are made posted on the county website and can be viewed here.
Nonprofit organizations seeking to redevelop parcels in the county's strategic reinvestment areas must submit the following items to the Department of Community Services:
- Capacity Questionnaire: demonstrates redevelopment experience, evidence of necessary funding, and the ability to meet post-sale requirements.
- Property Proposal: lays out a timeline and plan for the property, demonstrates financing has been secured, and shows a plan for affordability.
Nonprofit organizations should contact the Department of Community Services at (302) 395-5600 to discuss potential opportunities.
In the news...
- Many areas create land banks to tackle vacancy. Why New Castle County does it in-house
- County Executive Matt Meyer announces progress on Vacant Spaces to Livable Places initiative
- Duffy's Hope gives hope and a home to former foster kids
- New Castle County cuts vacant properties in half through new initiative
- New Castle County says vacant housing strategy is making great strides
- New Castle County Executive reports progress in cutting number of vacant homes
- New Castle County receives achievement awards from National Association of Counties
- New Castle County takes new action to tackle neighborhood blight
- NCCo plan addresses growing number of vacant homes
- New Castle County clamps down on vacant homes
- State gives local government more teeth to fight vacant homes
Vacant property in your neighborhood?
The Department of Land Use has identified over 600 vacant properties, inclusive of abandoned structures and open lots. If you suspect a vacant property in your neighborhood, please contact us at (302) 395-5555 or report it to our online property maintenance system.
Executive and Legislative Authority
Vacant Spaces to Livable Places was created through a series of executive orders and enabling legislation. Those documents can be found below.
New Castle County:
- Executive Order 2017-6: Good Faith Payment Plan: The County will not initiate monition process on any legally occupied residential properties provided the property owner enters a good faith payment plan with the Office of Finance and complies with the terms.
- Executive Order 2017-7: Prioritization of Properties For Sheriff’s Sale: Articulates the procedure to prioritize properties executed by a team constructed from multiple departments. The team generates a list through an objective process.
- Sub. No. 2 to Ord. No. 14-117: Require the Registration and Payment of Fees for Vacant Properties: Imposes a registration requirement and escalating fees on owners of vacant premises after 90 days of vacancy.
- Ord. No. 16-092: Remediation Vacancies, Making Progress Grant (ReVaMP): Appropriated $100,000 to a grant program created to promote homeownership of vacant properties in identified areas in New Castle County. Funds provided forgivable down payment and assistance loans.
- Sub. No. 1 to Ord. No. 17-033: Registration of Vacant Premises: Vacant premises registrations were restructured clarifying all vacant property registrations must be renewed prior to January 1 each calendar year. Registration fees for premises vacant for up to five (5) years were increased. Allows the Department of Land Use to register vacant premises if owner fails to do so, resulting in an additional administrative fee.
- Ord. No. 17-052: Vacant and Abandoned Property Maintenance Grant: Appropriated $100,000 from Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) to the Vacant and Abandoned Property Maintenance Grant, used by the Department of Land Use for maintenance, demolition and abatement of public safety and health issues of vacant properties.
- Ord. No. 18-049: Prequalification of Purchasers at Tax Sales: Requires purchasers of property at tax sales and assignees of tax sale bids to certify that they do not have a record of failing to maintain their property, and do not have outstanding liens owed to governmental entities in excess of $1,000.
- Sub. No. 1 to Ord No. 18-123: Amend Property Maintenance Code: Allows for reinspection fees; expands ticketing to include sanitation offenses; incorporates an escalating ticket fee schedule.
- Executive Order 2022-1: Consolidated Executive Order Governing Monitions: Consolidates multiple components of the program into one Order, including monitions prioritization, disposition strategies, and considerations for owners of multiple properties.
State of Delaware
- House Bill No.187: Prequalification of Bidders: Allows any County or municipality to require bidders on tax lien sales to certify, prior to bidding, that they do not have a record of failing to maintain their property, do not have outstanding liens owed to governmental entities in excess of $1,000, and do not hold properties that have been vacant for 18 consecutive months unless there is active construction on the property.
- House Bill No. 188: Lien Authority: Clarifies that costs associated with code enforcement is a lengthy and expensive process for local governments and liens for the enforcement may be collected in the same manner as property taxes.
- House Bill No. 139: Sewer Monition Authority: Removes the existing sewer monition method of sale in its entirety and will enable New Castle County to collect delinquent sewer service charges in the same manner as taxes are collected under the less burdensome and more efficient monition method of sale established by Chapter 87 of Title 9.