As Salisbury’s population has increased, so has its lack of housing inventory, lack of affordable housing and issues with homelessness.
On Wednesday, the city shared its plans to tackle these problems.
Mayor Jake Day announced plans to launch Here is Home, a housing initiative that will aim to increase housing supply, make housing more affordable and expand housing solutions for the homeless population.
The initiative will use monetary incentives, strategic partnerships and programs to achieve its goals, Day said.
“It is time for us to swing our doors wide open to the growth that we want,” Day said. “If we fail to act, what might that family who had to choose Millsboro or Easton or Ocean Pines or another market have brought to this city had they settled here?… What do we lose because we couldn’t accommodate?”
Those in attendance at Day’s presentation included Wicomico County Acting Executive John Psota, Salisbury Chamber of Commerce President Bill Chambers and four members of the Salisbury City Council.
The city council will discuss the legislation regarding Here is Home during October work sessions.
“This is probably the most impactful piece of legislation that I’ve ever been involved with,” City Council President Jack Heath said.
Incentivizing new development
Here is Home will work to draw developers to Salisbury.
It plans to do this by waiving all fees associated with development in the city. This will include annexation fees — fees tied to bringing a property into the Salisbury city limits.
Day plans to propose to the council a 90-day window during which property owners and real estate developers can take advantage of the waived fees.
Under this agreement, property owners and real estate developers will need to meet a certain timeline to begin and complete construction.
Day projected that ground will be broken on these new developments within approximately two years. These developments could feature multi-family or single-family housing, Day said.
Additionally, he said that the city will make considerations for developments currently in the “permitting pipeline.”
“We can’t make a sheet of plywood any cheaper, but we can control the cost of the fees to the city of Salisbury,” Day said.
As Salisbury hopes to see more homes being built, it also wants these homes to be affordable for current and future residents.
To achieve this, the city will establish a minimum payment in lieu of taxes for affordable housing. Day said this will be established by code for the creation of any subsidized housing in the city.
Salisbury will offer a property tax credit to Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Services and Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County.
As these organizations renovate homes, Salisbury will remove city taxes from their expenses, according to Day.
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Since the onset of the pandemic, home prices in Salisbury and other parts of the Eastern Shore have escalated significantly.
Salisbury also plans to expand its efforts to help its homeless community.
The city will build a Tiny Home Village that will provide homeless people with a dry, safe space to sleep.
Salisbury will construct 30 homes on a piece of property owned by the city. These homes will feature heat, air conditioning, showers, bathrooms, and mail and storage facilities.
Day said he didn’t always believe a Tiny Home Village was the right solution to combat homelessness, but added he is not above “adapting” or “being corrected.”
Salisbury Housing and Homelessness Manager Christine Chestnutt played a role in seeing plans for the Tiny Home Village come to fruition.
“When you are homeless, you live in constant fight or flight mode,” Chestnutt said. “Even if you’re sleeping, you’re not resting. This will provide that opportunity (to rest).”
Maddie Aiken covers local government for Delmarva Now/The Daily Times. Have a story tip or idea? Send it her way at email@example.com, 443-454-1157 or on Twitter @madsaiken.