WILMINGTON – Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County and the City of Wilmington recently announced that the nonprofit would be stepping in to pick up the pieces of the Bennett Street redevelopment left in limbo by the collapse of the Wilmington Housing Partnership (WHP).
Habitat is already working on building five homes along the 800 block of Bennett Street on Wilmington’s East Side called Amala Way, but it will now add the seven additional homes across the street, started by WHP in 2015 but left unfinished last year when it folded.
WHP, a semi-public nonprofit that took blighted properties and turned them into affordable housing, was forced to close in January after it purchased too many homes without necessary capital, a city audit found.
“This new development expands Amala Way from five to 12 units and presents us with more opportunities to make the dream of homeownership a reality for hard-working families,” said Kevin L. Smith, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County, in a Dec. 6 statement announcing the project. “The history surrounding this development is not an issue for us. What is an issue for us all, however, is the lack of decent and affordable housing in Wilmington. Taking on this project puts us further down the road toward revitalization and improving the quality of life for the people who live in this city.”
Mayor Mike Purzycki said the city is working with the reconstituted WHP board to transfer the properties to Habitat for Humanity.
“As I’ve said often in the last year or so, it has always been the city’s goal to see that both of the unfinished WHP housing projects — Bennett Street and Walt’s Way on Vandever Avenue — be completed as soon as possible and made available to families for homeownership,” Purzycki said in a statement. “I am most grateful to Kevin Smith and the staff and volunteers of Habitat for Humanity for helping us revive this entire block as we strengthen and revive the neighborhood.”
The city first approached Habitat about taking over the Bennett Street project earlier this year and recently came to an agreement that will enable the organization to finish the homes.
It is not the first time in its 33-year history that Habitat NCC has stepped up to ensure the successful completion of affordable homeownership projects.
“We believe that every hand helps,” Smith said. “In that spirit, HFHNCC has completed projects started by Interfaith Housing, as well as projects from both Appoquinimink Development in Middletown and Cornerstone West in Wilmington.”
Smith said that the completion of the Amala Way homes will add to the revitalization efforts underway in Wilmington’s East Side.
“This construction of 12 Amala Way homes on the east side will deliver a much-needed boost to the redevelopment partnership it has with the East Side Rising coalition and Central Baptist Church, which seeks to seize upon making available some 150 affordable homes there,” he said.
Habitat for Humanity provides 0% interest mortgages to hard-working qualified individuals, as well as performs and coordinates critical home repairs for existing low-income homeowners. Throughout its 33-year history, Habitat has served more than 350 New Castle County families with affordable housing solutions.
By Jacob Owens