Salisbury Mayor Jake Day unveiled a new initiative aimed at increasing the city’s housing stock and affordability, while also tackling solutions for the homeless population.
The city – the fastest growing municipality in Maryland -- is facing a housing deficit as more people want to live there.
“It is time for us to swing our doors wide open to the growth that we want,” Day said during an event outside Coventry Square, an apartment complex off of Beaglin Park Drive.
Over the coming weeks and months, the plan will be presented to the City Council for approval, but it already has a fan in Council President Jack Heath.
“This is probably the most impactful piece of legislation that I’ve ever been involved with,” he said. “This is a fantastic thing. Everybody will benefit from this program.”
The mayor’s plan also won the approval of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Salisbury Committee and Wicomico County Executive John Psota.
“This is a giant step in the right direction to address the scarcity of housing in Salisbury,” Psota said.
“Here Is Home” aims to spark development by waiving fees for developers and offering a minimum payment in lieu of taxes for Habitat for Humanity and Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Services.
The city also plans to build 30 tiny homes to offer safe, clean spaces for the chronically homeless population.
Salisbury’s housing stock is at a historic low and there is a demand for more, Day said.
“Even in an economy dimmed by the pandemic, the likes of which we have not seen in the modern era, Salisbury’s star remains ascendant,” he said.
To incentivize the construction of new housing stock, the “Here Is Home” initiative makes use of fee waivers. Property owners and real estate developers will be offered a 90-day window within which they may sign an agreement with the city waiving any and all fees associated with development – including annexation fees. Projects that stay on a defined timeline will pay nothing in city fees.
To meet the requirements, a project must receive permits by the end of 2022 and break ground approximately 2 years from Oct. 1, 2021. Occupancy of the development must happen no later than 18 months after groundbreaking for multifamily, or 3 years after groundbreaking for all single-family homes.
“Here Is Home” also addresses the affordability crisis by establishing a minimum payment in lieu of taxes for the creation of any subsidized housing in the city. This helps to lessen the cost burden to organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Services, by removing city taxes from their list of expenses.
“Here Is Home” also expands the efforts of the city’s Housing and Homelessness program, including the construction of a tiny home village consisting of 30 individual homes, supported by showers, bathrooms, mail and storage facilities.
The village – planned for city property on Marine Road – will offer safety and stability to the chronically homeless, said Christine Chestnutt, Salisbury’s Housing and Homelessness Manager.
“When someone has a place to be, then they can work on the other things they need to work on,” she said.
Day said decades of sprawl outside Salisbury limits “drew energy out of the city.” Now people want to live in a place ranked in the top 100 places to live and the top 30 places to retire.
“I’m excited to move Salisbury forward with affordable, available housing for everyone,” he said. “With this initiative, we aim not just to lift all boats, but to generate the tide of opportunity that will bear them up. Incentivizing construction creates jobs – every new unit expands our tax base, giving us better ability to fix and expand our infrastructure, and make Salisbury an even better version of the place we love.”