The city of Newark is looking for feedback on a number of recommendations related to rental housing in the city.
For the past several months, a committee – made up of residents, students, landlords, city officials and University of Delaware officials – has been meeting to discuss issues around rental housing and develop a series of recommended solutions.
Now, officials are asking Newarkers and other interested parties to weigh in about the recommendations via an online survey. The deadline to take the survey, which can be found here, has been extended through 9 a.m. Oct. 14. As of Oct. 8, more than 300 responses had been received.
The recommendations and survey results will be presented to city council on Oct. 28.
Here’s a look at some of the committee’s recommendations.
Community relations campaign: The city and UD should partner on a community relations campaign to help students living off campus understand expectations and common courtesies as a community member in the city of Newark. That could include a “Good Neighbor Guide” pamphlet and a Student Government Association program to organize community events for off-campus students.
Data collection: UD should survey students about where they live off campus in order to provide better data to city planners.
Complaint database: To the extent legally allowed, the city should create a public online database of code enforcement complaints so residents can check on the status of complaints they filed.
Rental home inspections: The city should start a marketing campaign to encourage tenants to allow code enforcement officers to inspect their houses and apartments. This would address concerns about the safety of rental properties that have not been inspected for several years because the landlord tells tenants to deny access to the inspectors. The city should also create a public database of rental homes that are up-to-date with their inspections.
Report citations to landlords: The city should notify landlords when their tenants are cited for offenses such as underage drinking, littering, disorderly premises, standing on roofs, etc. Currently, landlords are only notified of noise violations.
Student-home ordinance: The city should reassess the effectiveness of the 20-year-old student-home ordinance, which regulates rental permits for single-family homes occupied by more than two college students.
Problem landlords: The city should consider penalizing landlords for repeat code and criminal offenses and consider escalating fines for repeat offenders and problem properties that require excessive enforcement.
Late fees: The city should reduce rental permit late fees from 25 percent to 5 percent, to match the late fees for other city permits.
Promoting affordable housing: The city should require developers to include a percentage of units designated as affordable housing or pay a fee-in-lieu that would be collected by the city and used for affordable housing initiatives. The city should also consider a density bonus if affordable units are included in development projects.
Promoting housing for non-students: The city should allow for accessory dwelling units (such as an apartment over a garage) at owner-occupied homes. Those units should be restricted to “non-transient” tenants. The city should also allow duplexes in areas with single-family zoning.
Promote homeownership: The city should reinstate the Promoting Owner-Occupancy of Homes Program, which provided incentives to people who bought rental properties and committed to living there. The city should also rename the program to avoid the unfortunate acronym POOH. Incentives could be in the form of reduced mortgage rates, tax abatement, waiving development/permit fees, and/or grants or low-interest loans for property renovations.
Affordable housing initiatives: The city should partner with the Diamond State Community Land Trust, Habitat for Humanity or other affordable housing developers to purchase and manage homes to renovate and sell to qualifying families. This would promote owner-occupancy of homes and prevent homes from turning into rentals.
Reducing stigmas: The city should work with civic associations and police to improve the safety and increase the appeal of neighborhoods that have rental housing opportunities but have a negative stigma from the general public and are considered unsafe or undesirable to live in.
Increase density downtown: The city should revise the zoning code and comprehensive development plan to increase housing density in downtown areas within close proximity to UD.