Lewes group discusses affordable housing option

Subcommittee hears presentations on need, impact of accessory dwelling units
July 11, 2023

In an effort to create more affordable and workforce housing, Lewes officials are discussing whether to allow auxiliary dwelling units. 

The planning commission’s housing subcommittee held a hearing July 7 to learn more about the impact those types of dwellings could have on utilities and how they could be financed.

Subcommittee members said the goal of having ADUs is to create long-term, affordable, workforce housing in the city for people like teachers, nurses, police officers and city employees.

“This is not going to be something that will open an opportunity for more short-term, rental housing,” said subcommittee member Debra Evalds. “That has taken long-term rental units ... and people who are from this community out of this community.”

Evalds said the term affordable housing has a negative connotation and does not reflect the aim of the city to create more long-term units.

The city defines ADUs as small subordinate homes on the same lot with a larger, primary house. Units could be created inside, added to, or detached from the primary unit, and they are self-contained with separate kitchen, sleeping area and bathroom. They are often created through construction or conversion of an attic, basement or garage.

ADUs are currently illegal in Lewes.

Chris Benjamin, senior vice president in the lending group at Community Bank, gave a presentation July 7 on how ADUs could be financed. The numbers he used were based on 80% and 100% of area median income to show that there is a need for ADUs in Lewes.

“It’s only possible for the single person in both the 80% and 100% AMI to afford to purchase a home for what the government says the income limits should be ... but the person doesn’t really have any money left over with all of the other expenses,” he said.

Benjamin said it would be possible for people to get loans for ADUs. Benjamin is on a special action group with the Sussex County Association of Realtors that is trying to identify the people, communities and leaders who can help determine how to address affordable housing.

Lewes resident Dale Irvin expressed concern that affordable housing and ADUs are two separate issues. 

“Let’s address ADUs now, then we can talk about affordable housing,” she said. Irvin said she is waiting to build something at her home on S. Washington Street based on what’s decided. Under current code, she can only do what she wants if it is attached to her house.

Austin Calaman, general manager of the Lewes Board of Public Works, explained the potential impact ADUs could have on electrical and water service.

“Looking into the future, there's a potential for impacts if these become livable spaces where now each lot may have two-plus dwelling units on one property,” he said. “In effect, those potential new dwellings would increase electric consumption, water consumption and sewer consumption.”

Calaman said the homeowner would be responsible for any permits or costs related to extending utilities to an ADU.

Subcommittee members deferred discussion about parking for ADUs to a future meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 18, at the Rollins Community Center.

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