Gov. John Carney recently signed into law House Bills 187 and 188, bipartisan legislation that give new tools to local governments to fight neighborhood blight and combat vacant or abandoned homes.

Reps. J.J. Johnson, Stephanie Bolden, Joseph Miro, Daniel Short, John Mitchell and Kim Williams; and Sens. Bryan Townsend, Margaret Rose Henry and Stephanie Hansen sponsored the two bills, which passed the general assembly unanimously in June.

Carney signed the legislation at a vacant home purchased by New Castle County with state funds as part of an anti-blight initiative in the Garfield Park community near New Castle.

House Bill 187 will allow local governments to prequalify bidders at sheriff's sales to restrict bidders who are delinquent on property taxes or violating property maintenance codes. House Bill 188 will allow local governments to place a lien on a vacant property in violation of maintenance standards to recoup enforcement and abatement costs.

“Vacant and abandoned properties can bring down property values, attract crime and make neighborhoods unattractive places to live, work and play,” Carney said. “Strengthening our communities requires creative solutions to the problems we face, and new tools such as these will help local leaders effectively combat blight by directly addressing vacant homes. Delaware has invested $8.25 million in Strong Neighborhoods funding to redevelop housing in communities such as Garfield Park, which is leading to $35 million in other investment, and we must continue to work supporting residents who want to create safe streets and livable communities.”

Vacant and abandoned homes become breeding grounds for crime and dumping grounds for trash, are targets for arson and become a health and safety hazard for their surrounding communities. These properties also drive costs to county taxpayers, diverting public safety resources and force local government to pay for basic maintenance, grass mowing and waste removal. Additionally, vacant and abandoned housing has been shown to depress neighborhood property values and reduce tax revenues that fund critical public services.