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Sussex should definitely be repairing more homes

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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The Cape Gazette's reporting by Ron MacArthur on Sussex County's anemic excuse for a housing repair assistance program and its follow-up editorial "Repair more homes; create more jobs" were right on the money. Is that message hard to understand? I certainly think not Repair more homes for low income people and create more jobs? As reported, the county maintains a waiting list of over 1,000 low income homeowners with houses needing repair and has identified at least another 2,000 homes more than 5 percent of all homes in the county that are in need of major repairs to meet code requirements.

Since the Great Recession, jobs and income loss can only have spiked these numbers. Yet the best the county can do is to annually repair and not necessarily completely repair only about 140 homes funded almost entirely with over $1.1 million from the federal government (U.S. taxpayers). At a housing "report" presentation last month, two council members, according to MacArthur, pretty graphically explained the county's current housing policy. One councilman listened to the report and heard a need for the county to commit more of its resources to repair more housing - "cut into the waiting list." He asked "I wonder if we are doing enough?"

The other councilman responded by expressing his fear that if more was done with county funds there might be a taxpayer "backlash." He went on to talk about the importance of "personal responsibility" being a "big part of this county's success" and offered, "Somebody said there will always be poor." Perhaps the latter observation is akin to somebody having said there will always be elected officials who need to be voted out of office. Governing responsibly isn't easy these days it never has been. Public debate on the role of government has been historic and is certainly an ongoing and highly political affair today made more difficult by the rancor and intolerance of the ideologically rigid. Whether the issue is what direction to go in refraining a housing repair program, planning for sustainable growth, investing in infrastructure to support our economic needs, preserving farmland and essential wetlands, or ensuring coastal security in the context of climate change, citizen stakeholders have a right to demand more, not less, of their elected officials and government agencies.

Sussex County Council seems to be fundamentally conflicted about all of this. They need to get real or get lost. We live in an era of defining moments.

Richard S. Allan Primehook Beach



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Original Publication Date: January 1, 2013



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