At recent city council meetings, there have been significant discussions about homelessness and begging in neighborhoods across the city. Council members receive complaints from downtown businesses about the many homeless people in downtown areas, some of which are impacting pedestrian traffic in the area. Around the freeway malls, many homeless people beg, creating a dangerous situation for both motorists and the beggar. In a recent conversation in Milford, Martha Gery of Milford Advocacy of the Homeless and David Moore of Milford Housing Development Corporation explained why the homeless population seems to be on the rise.
“About one-third to one-half of the homeless population are employed,” Gery said. “A lot of them make minimum wage and they can afford, at most, $600 a month. In Milford, they just can’t do that. Low-income people just can’t afford to live here.
Currently there are over 4,000 homes on offer for the Milford area over the next few years. Many of them are single family homes and condos that will be for sale, not available for rent. A quick review of Realtor.com revealed that even some of the apartment complexes with rents based on income have an average cost of $600 to $610 per month. However, these apartment complexes have very long waiting lists. Rents for unsubsidized apartments in Milford are significantly higher.
An apartment in Silver Hill Apartments costs $950, in Parson Thorne it ranges from $885 to $980, and rents in Lakeview Apartments are $1,100 per month. Townhouses in Valley Run range from $999 to $1,259 and in Brookstone from $1,950. A condominium at Hearthstone Manor rents for $1,650 while condos at Windward on the River range from $1,242 to $1,756. Moore explained that affordable housing was extremely scarce overall on the east coast, not just in Milford, and that the “not in my backyard” attitude was part of the problem.
“We have a complex in a town in Maryland, a small one, maybe 30 units, that’s subsidized,” Moore said. “We have owned and operated it for many years. There was a piece of land next door that we bought hoping to expand the complex, putting 18-20 more units there. One of the council members called me and said seniors housing would be fine, but they didn’t want families. There is a great need for affordable housing for seniors, but this council did not want families because that equates to crime and there would be more problems. I told him they didn’t want to hurt you. They just want a place to live. In this complex, I had only one policeman in five years. It was domestic, but it happens everywhere, even in influential neighborhoods.
Moore explained that many of the homeless people seen today are people making sandwiches, people serving coffee, not necessarily people who don’t want to work. They simply cannot afford housing in the region. Gery said some of those who beg do so for immediate cash. She pointed out that it could be a woman who has a monthly need but does not have money for supplies. Gery admitted that some of these homeless people have mental health issues or may struggle with a drug or alcohol problem, but many have simply found themselves in a situation where they no longer have a home. self. Moore said some of the issues were also changes in government funding for subsidized housing.
“In the early days when I first got involved in affordable housing, there was a lot of grant money for rental housing,” Moore said. “Not only could I, as a non-profit organization, have access to it, but the for-profit developers could as well. They could build an apartment complex that could look like one of my senior citizen complexes. , but they got the grant because they went through the USDA or one of the HUD programs at the time The rents were set up so that no more than 30% of the income of that person can be spent on rent and utilities. The last such project I did was in 2003.”
According to Moore, when you build a new complex, you have to use tax credits. In Delaware, there are only two or three awards each year for these credits, whether it is for the rehabilitation of a current property or the construction of a new property. Credits only subsidize funding, which means Moore’s nonprofit has to compete with big developers. Market rates are also very high for developers leading to higher housing costs.
Another problem many face when moving into subsidized housing is that income-based rents can fluctuate widely. Moore acknowledged seeing a person with no income move into subsidized rental housing with rents around $100 a month. They find a job and their rent goes from $100 to $400 a month with very little time to adjust their budget to handle that extra $300 a month. Not only could this push this tenant back into homelessness, but it also encourages them not to look for a job.
“Milford continues to grow economically,” Gery said. “I’ve heard people call him the new Milford and the old Milford. I meet people who come to this area with influential money and you need to have a conversation about the haves and have-nots. I think it’s more about making sure everyone has the same opportunity to find housing, regardless of income.