Delaware Wilmington

We Still Haven’t Fixed Wilmington’s Landlord Problem and We’re Still Suffering from a River of Misinformation on The Problem

Back in June I wrote about the lies and propaganda being spun up in order to block a bill that would rewrite the housing code so that Wilmington could more rapidly and effectively address some of its long-standing issues with slumlords and those landlords who think that they can get away with substandard housing in our neighborhoods. It’s still going on:

Forgetting about the misinformation, it is especially galling that this is being distributed to the people who most need more secure and healthy housing, the folks who most need to get out of the game the worst slum landlords play with poor renters.

There’s no “Fines and Fees on Neighborhoods” being proposed by this bill. Who would pay that? There are fines on non-compliant landlords and there are increased registration fees for units to cover the costs of pre-rental inspections. No neighborhood fines. This basic fine and fee scenario isn’t even new — it is what is in the code NOW, the new code leaves the fines the same, but makes the offense civil rather than criminal. Wilmington does have rental registration fees, they go up here to offset the cost of routine rental inspections. What this bill does do is to get homeowners OUT of the fines business, except in certain emergencies.

Vacants and foreclosures? The city doesn’t control foreclosures, banks and owners who don’t pay their mortgages do. If the folks behind this are telling us that it is too costly for landlords to keep up their properties, then let those landlords sell those properties to folks who know how to run a rental business.

Grants to rehab vacants? Some vacants are rehabbed by local non-profits with the help of city grants and/or grants from other agencies and foundations. Is there enough money to rehab vacants? Nope. But pretending that this doesn’t even exist doesn’t help their case. What can’t happen is to hand over money to the current owners of vacants. The very fact that they have a vacant and possibly mouldering building is a business failure and there is just no reason to throw good taxpayer money after bad.

Homeowner repair program? This also exists, commonly called the Facades program. It has been around for as long as I’ve lived here and it is targeted to low-income homeowners who need to get work done on the exterior of their homes. Is there enough money for the need? Nope. But gain, why pretend this isn’t here? How if we ask for MORE and expand the program?

Pre-rental inspections? Reinstating these is in the Blight Bill and if it passes, they will come back. Which is a very good thing. Why pretend that these aren’t already part of the proposed update to the code?

Ground zero of housing insecurity is a lack of affordable housing opportunities for those who most need it. In Wilmington (really, all over Delaware) this lack of affordable housing has created a market vacuum that is occupied by those whose business it is to make their money from extracting as much as possible from poor people. If you have read the book Evicted by Matthew Desmond you get the model at work. Poor people already living at the edge of risk are charged too much for housing that isn’t often up to snuff here. The bet is that the risk these folks live with will keep them from complaining too much about housing conditions. It’s one of the reasons some of my neighbors over the years ask me to help them address their landlord issues. And even then, these folks don’t stay very long here. Some figure a way to get to neighborhoods that are more secure, healthier and more conducive to children. Others are either evicted or have leases not renewed sometimes for no other reason than the landlord wants to raise the rent. Displacement is baked in the cake.

There’s more, of course, but there is just no reason to oppose a Code revision that focuses on Wilmington’s biggest housing issue and that is rentals. Still, a City that can’t ask its property owners for some minimum standards is a city that is failing. It is failing because they communicate to the markets that the quality of housing is not important — and that they won’t object to substandard conditions, even the existence of lead based paint. So what rushes in are “investors” whose entire business model is in targeting poor people and extracting as much cash from them as possible.

Wilmington needs this code revision. Wilmington’s homeowners need this code revision. And Wilmington needs housing advocates who will be dead focused on the *real* issue here — a need to get serious about building more affordable housing options. In the meantime, this code revision tells landlords that they are expected to invest in safe and secure housing for their current tenants here in the City. A small step that would mean a great deal citywide.

***If you don’t have a ton of time for books, On the Media (my fav NPR program) handed over 4 weeks of their program to the eviction crisis:

Episode 1: Why?
Episode 2: 40 Acres
Episode 3: Landlords & Tenants
Episode 4: Solutions

These range from 40 to 50 mins long. Worth every minute if you are interested in the problem of affordable housing.

51 comments on “We Still Haven’t Fixed Wilmington’s Landlord Problem and We’re Still Suffering from a River of Misinformation on The Problem

  1. Kathleen Patterson

    Thank you!

  2. Kathleen Patterson

    Find out more about Wilmington’s existing home repair program here:

    https://www.wilmingtonde.gov/government/city-departments/real-estate-and-housing/home-repair-loan-program

  3. Do you know who is behind this misinformation campaign? The web site listed on that flyer talks about some council subcommittee that’s working on a different plan — one that would involve spending money that isn’t there. Naming names here would help tremendously in fighting against this.

    • Kathleen Patterson

      The flyer seems to refer to council members who are either on the fence or support the blight bull

    • cassandram

      The folks who are currently NO votes on this bill include: Vash Turner, Rysheema Dixon, Yolanda Turner, Trippi Congo, Sam Guy. Christian Willauer — who used to be in charge of the Land Bank — is one of the major organizers against this thing and the person behind the website in the flyer. And at this point, the real agenda here is to Just Say No to Mike Purzycki. Everyone else who has to live with the downstream effects of these crap landlords can go to hell apparently.

  4. Rebecca Cotto

    I’m gonna leave this right here. When someone not of socio-economic privilege (including myself) tells me what a great idea this is and how supportive they are of the blight bill I may listen. However all the community memebers including the ones behind the FB page https://www.facebook.com/Wilmington-Neighborhoods-Coalition-577336552740994/?__tn__=kCH-R&eid=ARBJ-KL5ThWuhK8YuIBuSYiGkBRPh_G4Q0gijHQPG7aVCiC-MKdhiXARsIXsTkmZNIS_C2qXq2hYdorg&hc_ref=ARRTKCzHckpzPnkTlRk75VsG5jsqDP4VU2GbCChHCvkczmxREoxxIym1rdA0I-WUOg4&fref=nf&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARBndfFGVFwEijeVFQWiZNv2OhaMW0_NPIqelYojbn0QiI6sSJTC0W44Q18YsghQ_mq_xMNG10hsrIFYH4gwZ4XSIHVT-XsnMeMFKfHD4iIar3PCSIp903FT9Exbyufx4BaO7Day5KpMlkIN23mHSK7tJjKtn25u1_i8UuqxMyFHvRt5ENrK5We7AqTcfU8zq5bAC3qMC5uo24E7DebJ5684Ov3ZBmyubtgyLt3SJkqwMDE9BVux5h_hIak5r9c3-0np4GYqjqbCj6vb80zp0IrKAWWBlTqoVi7PWU2_AbnzOk4IxU5DBg18aPrKE25Z4OYhunpyaR_jnAnTbwuhINMI
    have a different story. The suggestions made by this group are a more holistic and community centered approach. I will see how this works out but this is democracy and if the majority of the voices want a different approach then that will happen.

    • cassandram

      This right here is the spin:
      “more holistic and community centered approach”

      This bill has been held up for almost two years and there has not been any framework of a “more holistic and community centered approach” on offer. This *is* a democracy and some of us live right at ground zero of this business, Becca. I’m certain you don’t want to imply we don’t know what is going on in our own neighborhoods, but it *is* true that some of the folks who have this “more holistic and community centered approach” are captured by the landlord community that does not want this bill to happen.

      These neighborhoods include folks who have invested here and who actually live here. Continuing to wait for solutions that are not forthcoming is a new form of redlining, right? The African American and Hispanic families most impacted by this literally have the value of their homes stolen from them by being surrounded by these unaccountable landlords. And I do not accept that they have to forgo the generational wealth that they are trying to build.

      I can’t afford to walk away from this. And at this point the smartest business decision I could make is to pack up my stuff, button up my house, live somewhere else BUT become a slumlord myself. It is apparently the only way that I’ll retrieve my investment or get any respect from the “more holistic and community centered approach” crowd.

      • Rebecca Cotto

        Yeah if there were not amazing people like Rysheema Dixon looking for alternative solutions, I might agree with you. However I consider her to be one of the most amazing and authentic people anywhere in DE government. Could the same goal not be reached with the other suggestions?

        • Kathleen Patterson

          Rysheema and Yolanda put forth their new community based committee just last month. This bill has been on councils agenda in some form for 2+ years now. How long will it take for legislation to come out of this group? Another 2 years? Maybe after someone else is in the Mayor’s office?

      • Heather Hook

        C- I just shared the exact sentiment. When I learned that the homeowner responsibility was blocked and removed from the bill, my heart plummeted. I’ve sought every solution to receive help for the twin to my house as it decays. I put everything I have into my home and have watched it’s value drop over 150k. Is it even worth investing in it anymore?

        • cassandram

          Your situation is genuinely horrible. And this is repeated with the worst of landlord properties all over the city. Your neighbor is cited and hauled to court or sheriff sale and gets continuances, reprieves, forgiveness all the while his house is quite literally endangering yours. And the criminal system that is supposed to help rein this in seems to enable it, rather than fix it. Same problem with the worst of the landlords too. While I understand why this change was made, it does leave homeowners faced with negligent other homeowners high and dry.

          But certainly this is the weak spot of having this handled by the criminal court in a city that provides no oversight to any courts whatsoever.

          Homeowners understand that we are all getting the short end of the stick here. AGAIN. This is not a city that can afford to lose its homeowners and needs to provide some basic standards that will keep them here and attract more of them. If the city is helpless to help you with your problem, Heather, that is a signal to the rest of us that our houses are at just as much risk. (My next door neighbor has some issues too, but not like this.)

  5. Christian Willauer

    Wilmington needs to address poor quality housing, bad landlords, and neighborhood revitalization through a comprehensive approach. The Blight Bill is not a well thought out piece of legislation that could have unintended consequences, including more vacant and deteriorating properties. Instead of the Blight Bill, Wilmington needs to make operational changes to L&I and reform the code in ways that draw from the lessons learned in other cities. Wilmington City Council’s Community Development and Urban Planning Committee has launched an advisory committee made up of multiple stakeholders to give input on this process, which will get underway as soon as Council gets back into session. Find a potential path forward here: Action Plan for Safe and Healthy Homes and Neighborhoods: https://www.neighborhoodsde.org/copy-of-code-reform-that-works. I am working with growing number residents and organizations to help get the word out about the Blight Bill and alternatives through the http://www.neighborhoodsde.org website, canvassing, and holding events. It is up to all of us to get informed on all the options and be part of ensuring that the City makes the decision on the best one. Please write to me directly at info@neighborhoodsde.org with any specifics about what you believe to be misinformation, because we do our best to stick to the facts and advocate for bringing national best practices to Wilmington.

    • Please. She already laid out what the misinformation is above. If you had an ounce of integrity you’d answer the charges right here.

    • I would also appreciate an explanation of the “unintended consequences” of holding slumlords responsible, and why holding them accountable cannot be done simultaneously with your “holistic” approach.

      Seems to me you had your shot, madam, and you quit. I wouldn’t trust you with a nickel until you explain why.

      • cassandram

        The “unintended consequences” is partly messaging from the landlord community. They are apparently telling folks they can’t afford these investments with better accountability requirements attached. Business People stay in businesses where they make money. And they work the refs. They’ll still make money — just not as much. But whether they make money or not is not a problem for a taxpayer to pay attention to. If they can’t make money, someone who can will step in. And will still need to live with the same accountability regime.

  6. cassandram

    Of course. And the people who have lived with this and fought this battle for 16 years don’t count. But then, there is only one of us who can afford to take sides based on who we think is “authentic”. Or, frankly, who can confidently choose who is “authentic”.

    Welp. Just want to make sure we all get what we are dealing with here.

    There are no cities that don’t try to uphold some standards of safety and health for its housing. This effort actually refocuses L&I to work on the biggest problem in the city — rentals. Are there other solutions? I doubt it. There is a standard and it needs to be met. They aren’t suggestions. People’s lives are at stake. People who are literally being preyed upon by slumlords and the people who are engaged in opposing this are not interested in fixing *this*.

  7. Rebecca Cotto

    ” I might agree with you. However I consider her to be one of the most amazing and authentic people anywhere in DE government.”
    I said I consider doesn’t mean she’s the only one nor does this have to be your opinion (Obviously). In every interaction I have had and upon observation of work in transforming the community it informs my opinion as to why I believe that.

  8. I wonder how authentic one can actually be when they are handing out this literature with no names or contact info, but refer them to a website instead. I challenge you try to find the names of ANYONE on that website. This is a classic astroturf technique.

    Combine that with the critiques above and zero response to said critiques, I’d lean toward inauthenticity at this point.

  9. Don’t know why anyone would be a landlord in Wilmington. Tenants, government and the neighborhood all treat you as the enemy. Let the investors leave en mass and watch the city fall apart except for Trolley/Highlands and the business area. Wilmington neighborhoods are trash because of the attitudes within, not the landlords. It’s free to weed your own property, pick up trash, and take some pride- something you’ll see is never done in most areas. That’s a fact.

    • You wouldn’t know a fact if it bit your on your racist ass.

    • cassandram

      People are landlords here for the reason they are landlords everywhere else — they can make money at it. The goal of this bill is to disrupt the business model that would let a landlord make their money by providing substandard housing. Investors won’t leave en masse because they can make money. Maybe a little less after this bill, but they’ll certainly make their money.

      • He doesn’t give a crap about landlords. He just wanted to bash minorities.

        • Alby, are you claiming only a certain race doesn’t clean up trash and weed their property? How deep are your racist beliefs that you made that assumption?

          • Good luck with that load of BS

          • Because you exempted the two majority-white areas of the city from your rant. Glad to see you’re stupid as well as conservative. The two go paw in paw.

          • Plus I doubt you live in the city given your label of “the Trolley Square area,” which encompasses several neighborhoods.

            • You’re digging your racist hole deeper. So only whites live in the wealthy areas of the city? Honestly you’re disgusting. Now trying to divert your racist assumptions by claiming I’m a conservative? Just admit you have the bias and privilege of an old white male. You know nothing about our struggles regardless of our economic position in life.

              • I’m sorry, are you a different anon from the one who made the initial comment?

                The racist assumptions were made by the first commenter. I was responding to those.

                If you’re a different commenter, then you obviously have nothing to add to the discussion. Just admit you’re an asshole, whatever color you are.

              • You flunk reading comprehension. I said “majority white,” dumbfuck.

                You’re not a conservative? Then thank you for showing that liberals can be bigger assholes than conservatives.

                Now let’s get to the issue — are you just sucking up to landlords, or are you one yourself?

                • And if you’re not the same person as the first anon, extra dumbfuck points for not being able to think up a different name.

  10. Almost forgot: Bonus hypocrisy points by claiming I’m stereotyping and then calling me out as an “old white guy.” You sound like the sad product of a Delaware education.

    • Ok, so are you doubting you benefit from privilege as a white male? You seem to be passively doubting that fact, not expressly owning it and being embarrassed by it. Maybe you are the one confused. To be honest, go fuck yourself if you feel you can even relate to the struggles minorities face.

      • Why would I be embarrassed by it? I’m no more responsible for being white and old than you are for being stupid and whatever color you are. Obviously I’m white and privileged. So what? It has nothing to do with the issue under discussion, which you’re pretty clearly trying to distract from here.

        I’m not the issue. Dumbfucks in thrall to landlords is the issue. Where do you stand on it? And are you the same person who made the first anon comment? Because that seems more racist to me than any assumption I supposedly made about minorities failing to keep up their neighborhoods.

        I’d tell you to go fuck yourself too, but you’re obviously too stupid to figure out how to do it. Assholes come in all colors, as you so ably have proved here.

        People who complain about others’ privilege are, generally speaking, people with nothing meaningful to add to any discussion. Attacking a messenger instead of a message is a failure of logic, a subject you clearly know nothing about. Again, I don’t blame your race, whatever it is, but your clearly substandard education.

  11. No, I’m saying that my white male privilege has nothing to do with the subject, which you’re clearly trying to derail here.

    I’m also saying that people who have nothing to do but run around yelling, “White privilege! White privilege!” are people consumed by envy, nothing else. There’s always someone more privileged than you, just as there’s always somebody less privileged than you.

    Now perhaps you can explain — if you have the brains to do it, which I seriously doubt — what your bleating has to do with the issue at hand.

  12. Also this: Cassandra’s position on this is pretty much the same as mine. Is that her privilege as a homeowner talking? Can only renters relate to your struggles.

    And why is it you’re attacking me instead of the clearly racist post that I was reacting to? You’re a phony in addition to everything else.

    • I will not participate in you derailing this vital topic with your mansplaining rants because you can’t stand a woman of color pointed out your White Privilege. While I disagree with the original comment, I don’t see where they brought race into it. However, you did. You immediately assumed race because of the underlying racial bias/racism you hold.

      • In other words, you got nothing. You haven’t done a thing to further the topic. If you don’t see where they brought race into it, you’re blind in addition to envious, stupid and incapable of using logic. That’s why you’re miserable.

        YOU pointed out my white privilege? Are you stuck in 2006 or something? And you continue to use stereotyping to insult me, apparently without realizing that you’re actually guilty of what you’re claiming I’m guilty of.

        How would I know you’re a woman of color, and why should I care? Howzabout you return to the topic you claim to care about instead of tossing out a bunch of tired social justice tropes to justify your sorry existence?

  13. This is, by the way, an old conservative trick: Pretend the first comment wasn’t racist — it obviously was or it wouldn’t have exempted the majority-white neighborhoods — and then call the person who heard the dog whistles the real racist.

    If you’re a real woman of color, which I have no reason to believe given your lack of transparency, you’re a race traitor.

    • What’s next, you’re going to demand a birth certificate? Are you sure you are in the right place? Your obvious issues are pretty telling of where you stand. Deep down you do not represent Progressive Values. This conversation is over unless you have a valid and logical point to make.

      • cassandram

        You don’t represent progressive values, either. With a NJ comment section worthy comment about how unkempt Wilmington is except where the white people live AND this comment on a recent criminal justice win as evidence.

        Go away. Come back when you have something other than this bullshit to say.

      • You have not said a single word about the issue you claim you don’t want to derail. You’re a poor psychoanalyst, too. If you go back in the comments you’ll find I’m in favor reparations and am a staunch supporter of BLM. You, on the other hand, claim not to find any racism in an obviously racist comment.

        You’re either a fraud or the stupidest person who’s visited this site in quite a while. Blow off.

      • I don’t see why you don’t fly under your own flag. I do. I prefer it. I did use a pseudonym briefly, but went with my own name. If you trade in the truth, you have nothing to lose.

        • Because I have a rare last name and would prefer my relatives not be bothered by MAGAts. Anybody who cares can find it out fairly easily, and I am known to most long-term denizens of the Delaware blogosphere.

  14. Cassandra is an establishment party insider. Not surprised she defends your racist comment. This is why people like John Carney are considered Democrats. Progressives and our values continue to be shunned.

    • You’re no progressive, phony. The comment wasn’t racist, and you’re just an empty sack of air pretending to be a “woman of color” who claims she didn’t see anything racist about someone posting that the only two neighborhoods in the city that are worth a shit are both majority-white.

      If you actually are a woman of color, you are the sorriest example of such in the entire state, but there’s no evidence at all that you really are one. You have brought nothing but a grab-bag of liberal catchphrases to your argument. And, despite your claim that you don’t want to derail the topic, you have done nothing but derail the topic since you arrived. You have not once, in all these comments, said a single word about the topic.

      Perhaps the sorriest part of this is your apparent belief that you’re fooling anyone other than yourself. Go look in the mirror and see what a failure looks like.

      • Say what you want, it doesn’t change the fact you made an assumption that uncovers your deep racist thoughts. I did not post the original comment and don’t need to prove anything to you. Your words say everything about you and your lack of character.

        • As do yours. I made no assumption, I countered the assumption of another. You, on the other hand, are making assumptions about my supposed “deep thoughts” based on the misreading of a comment.

          Next thing you say about the topic is the first. But if you think I’ll let some asshole character assassin go around libeling me you’re wrong. So sorry, I’ll not let you “say what you want.” If I so choose, I can have them trace your, find your identity and sue your sorry ass. Look it up.

          Keep it up and find out.

        • @anon Yes, you did post the original comment.

          • So this person is a stone cold liar. As I suspected, because this line of “reasoning” is well documented among conservative racists, and nobody else.

  15. Here, I’ve got an offer for you: Either you actually discuss the issue in your next comment or you disappear for good. Deal?

  16. A note for the next conservative asswipe who tries the “I’m a woman of color” gambit:

    I spent 40 years in media. I have a very good nose for sniffing out this kind of false representation, because it’s among the laziest tricks in the liars’ playbook and therefore for them a go-to substitute for a thoughtful strategy for dealing with a reality they hate.

    I realize that conservatives have nothing useful to contribute to society — that’s why they’re always claiming credit for stuff other, smarter white people did — but I would request that you leave others out of what passes for your “intellectual” endeavors. If you’re so bored, try playing in traffic.

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