HOUSING AUTHORITY AN ACT AUTHORIZING AND PROVIDING FOR THE CREATION OF BODIES CORPORATE AND POLITIC TO ENGAGE IN LOW-COST HOUSING PROJECTS TO BE KNOWN AS HOUSING AUTHORITIES; PROVIDING FOR THE APPOINTMENT, QUALIFICATION, REMOVAL AND COMPENSATION OF HOUSING COMMISSIONERS; DEFINING THE POWERS OF HOUSING AUTHORITIES AND HOUSING COMMISSIONERS AND MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR THE PURPOSE OF LENDING MONEY TO HOUSING AUTHORITIES TO AID IN LOW-COST HOUSING PROJECTS.
WHEREAS, congested and unsanitary housing conditions which exist in certain areas of the State and lack of suitable low- cost housing accommodations are a menace to the health, safety, morals, welfare and reasonable comfort of the public; and
WHEREAS, the removal of such congested and unsanitary housing conditions and the providing of suitable low-cost housing accommodations through the carrying on of projects of slum clearance, reclaiming blighted areas and constructing low-cost housing are public purposes and it is also in the public interest that work on such projects be instituted as soon as possible in order to relieve unemployment, which now constitutes an emergency; and
WHEREAS, there is not available sufficient private capital for such projects, but the federal government, through the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works and other agencies, has made available to States, Municipalities or other public bodies funds which may be used for such projects; and
WHEREAS, in order to facilitate the securing of funds and the prompt application thereof to the public purposes hereinabove referred to, namely, projects of slum clearance, the reclaiming of blighted areas and the erecting of low-cost housing, and to eliminate any question as to the powers of public bodies to engage in such projects or as to their eligibility to receive grants in aid thereof from the Federal Government, it is necessary in the public interest that provision be made for the creation of public corporate bodies to engage in such projects, and that such bodies so created be given the powers herein set forth, including the power of eminent domain, now therefore Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware in General Assembly met: (Three-fourths of all the members elected to each branch thereof concurring therein): Section 1. This Act shall be known as the Housing Authority Law.
Section 2. The following terms, wherever used or referred to in this Act shall have the following respective meanings, unless in case a different meaning clearly appears from the context:
(a) "Authority" or "housing authority" shall mean a corporate body organized in accordance with the provisions of this Act for the purposes, with the powers and subject to the restrictions hereinafter set forth.
(b) "Commissioner" shall mean one of the members of an Authority appointed in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
(c) "Government" shall include the State and Federal Governments, and any subdivision, agency or instrumentality, corporate or otherwise, of either of them.
(d) The "State" shall mean the State of Delaware.
(e) The "Board" shall mean the State Board of Housing.
(f) "Area" or "Area of Operation" shall mean the county or part of the county in and with respect to which an Authority shall be created.
(g) "Resident Judge" shall mean the resident Judge of the Superior Court of the county in which an Authority operates.
(h)"Project" shall include all lands, buildings, and improvements, acquired, owned, leased, managed or operated by a housing authority, and all buildings and improvements constructed, reconstructed or repaired by a housing authority, designed to provide housing accommodations, or stores and community facilities appurtenant thereto, which are planned as a unit, whether or not acquired or constructed at one time, and which ordinarily are contiguous or adjacent to one another; and the planning or buildings and improvements, and acquisition of property, the demolition of existing structures, the clearing of land, the construction, reconstruction and repair of improvements and all other work in connection therewith.
(i) "Community facilities" shall include lands, buildings and equipment for recreation or social assembly, for educational, health or welfare activities and other necessary utilities primarily for use and benefit of the occupants of housing accommodations to be constructed and operated hereunder.
Section 3. It is hereby declared as a matter of legislative de- termination that in order to promote and protect the health, safety, morals and welfare of the public, it is necessary in the public interest to provide for the creation of public corporate bodies to be known as housing authorities, and to confer upon and vest in said housing authorities all powers necessary or appropriate in order that they may engage in low-cost housing and slum clearance projects; and that the powers herein conferred upon the housing authorities, including the power to acquire property, to remove unsanitary or sub-standard conditions, to construct and operate housing accommodations and to borrow, expend and repay moneys for the purposes herein set forth, are public objects essential to the public interest.
Section 4. Whenever the State Board of Housing shall have determined that there is need for a housing authority in any county or in any part of a county of the state, it shall issue to each appointing officer hereinafter named a certificate of such determination, describing the area of operation of the proposed authority, and as soon as possible thereafter an Authority shall be created by the appointment of six commissioners who shall constitute the Authority, all of whom shall be residents of the area in which the Authority operates. The Commissioners shall be appointed as follows: two by the Governor for initial terms of six years and three years re- spectively; two by the Mayor of the most populous incorporated city or town in the area of operation in accordance with the last Federal Census, for initial terms of five years and two years respectively; and two by the Resident Judge of the Superior Court of the County for initial terms of four years and one year respectively. Not more than one appointee of the Governor, or of the Mayor, or of the Resident Judge, at any one time, shall be from the same political party or subdivision thereof. Forthwith upon the appointment of the original commissioners, the appointing officers shall execute and file or cause to be filed in the office of the Secretary of State a certificate or certificates stating that such appointments have been duly made and setting forth the name and term of office of each commissioner; such certificate or certificates shall be conclusive evidence of the due and proper creation of the Authority. Each appointing officer shall execute and file or cause to be filed in the office of the Secretary of State a certificate with respect to each appointment of a successor com- missioner stating the fact of such appointment and setting forth the name of the successor commissioner and his term of office. The Governor, the Mayor and the Resident Judge, respectively, shall appoint successors to commissioners appointed by them or by their respective predecessors in office. Each successor commissioner shall be appointed to hold office in the case of a vacancy for the unexpired term, or in the case of expiration for a term of six years or until his successor shall have been appointed and qualified. The Governor, Mayor and Resident Judge, by majority vote may remove a Commissioner of the Authority for official misconduct, neglect of duty or incompetence, but only after the commissioner shall have been given a copy of the charges against him and an opportunity to be heard in person or by counsel in his own defense. Pending the determination of the charges against the commissioner, the Governor, Mayor and Resident Judge, by majority vote, may suspend him from office. A copy of the charges and the result of the hearing shall be forwarded to the Board.
Section 5. No member or employee of an authority shall acquire any interest, direct or indirect, in a project or in any property then or thereafter included or planned to be included in a project, nor retain any interest direct or indirect in any property acquired subsequently to his appointment or employment which is later included or to his knowledge planned to be included in a project, nor shall he have any interest, direct or indirect, in any contract or pro- posed contract for materials or services to be furnished or used in connection with any project. If any member or employee of any authority owns or controls an interest, direct or indirect, in any property included in any project, which was acquired prior to his appointment or employment, he shall disclose such interest and the date of acquisition thereof in writing to the Authority and such disclosure shall be entered upon the minutes of the Authority.
Section 6. As soon as possible after the creation of an Authority, the commissioners shall organize for the transaction of business by choosing from among their number a chairman and vice-chairmen and by adopting by-laws and rules and regulations suitable to the purposes of this Act. Three commissioners shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of organizing the Authority and conducting the business thereof. The Commissioners shall, from time to time, select and appoint such officers and employees, including a director to be ex-officio secretary, and engineering, architectural and legal assistants, as they may require for the performance of their duties, and shall prescribe the duties and compensation of each officer and employee.
Section 7. No commissioner shall receive any compensation, whether in form of salary, per diem allowances or otherwise, for or in connection with his services as such commissioner. Each com- missioner shall, however, be entitled to reimbursement, to the extent of appropriations or other funds available therefor, for any necessary expenditures in connection with the performance of his general duties or in connection with the construction or operation of any project. The Authority may allocate such expenses among its projects in such manner as it may consider proper.
Section 8. An Authority shall constitute a body both corporate and politic, exercising public powers, and having all the powers necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this Act, including the following powers in addition to others herein granted: To investigate into living and housing conditions in its area of operations and into the means and methods of improving such conditions; to determine where unsanitary or substandard housing conditions exist; to study and make recommendations concerning the plans of the area of operations in relation to the problems of clearing, replanning and reconstruction of areas in which unsanitary or substandard conditions exist, and the providing of housing accommodations for persons of low income, and to cooperate with any city, regional or state planning agency; To prepare, carry out and operate projects; to provide for the construction, reconstruction, improvement, alteration or repair of any project or any part thereof; to take over by purchase, lease, or otherwise any project undertaken by any government; to act as agent for the federal government in connection with the acquisition, construction, operation or management of a project or any part thereof; to arrange with any government within the area of operation for the furnishing, planning, replanning, opening or closing of streets, roads, roadways, alleys, parks or other places or public facilities or for the acquisition by any government or any agency, instrumental- ity or subdivision thereof, including, specifically, the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works and the Public Works Emergency Housing Corporation, of property, options or property rights or for the furnishing of property or services in connection with a project; To lease or rent any of the housing or other accommodations, or any of the lands, buildings, structures, or facilities, embraced in any project and to establish and revise the rents or charges therefor; to purchase, lease, obtain options upon, acquire by eminent domain or otherwise, sell, exchange, transfer, assign, mortgage or pledge any property real or personal or any interest therein; to acquire property real or personal or any interest therein from any person, firm, corporation or any municipal, state, or federal government or any agency, instrumentality or subdivision thereof, including specifically, the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works and the Public Works Emergency Housing Corporation, by gift, grant, bequest, or devise; to own, hold, clear and improve property; in its discretion to insure or provide for the insurance of the property or operations of the Authority against such risks as the Authority may deem advisable; To borrow money upon its bonds, notes, debentures, or other evidences of indebtedness and to secure the same by mortgage upon property held or to be held by it or by pledge of its revenues, or in any other manner, and in connection with any loan by a government, to agree to limitations upon the exercise of any powers conferred upon the Authority by this Act; to invest any funds held in reserves or sinking funds, or in any funds not required for immediate disbursements in state or federal securities; To sue and be sued; to have a seal and to alter the same at pleasure; to have perpetual succession; to make and execute contracts and other instruments necessary or convenient to the exercise of the powers of the Authority; to make and from time to time amend and repeal by-laws, rules and regulations not inconsistent with this Act, to carry into effect the powers and purposes of the Authority; To enter upon any building or property in order to conduct investigations or to make surveys or soundings; to conduct examinations and investigations and to hear testimony and take proof under oath at public or private hearings on any matter material for its information; to issue subpoenas requiring the attendance of wit- nesses or the production of books and papers and to issue commissions for the examination of witnesses who are out of the state or unable to attend before the Authority, or excused from attendance; and to do all things necessary or convenient to carry out the powers given in this Act. Any of the investigations or examinations provided for in this Act may be conducted by the Authority or by a committee appointed by it, consisting of one or more commissioners, or by counsel, or by an officer or employee specially authorized by the Authority to conduct it. Any commissioner, counsel for the Authority, or any person designated by it to conduct an investigation or examination shall have power to administer oaths, take affidavits and issue subpoenas or commissions. Any authority may exercise any or all of the powers herein conferred upon it, either generally or with respect to any specific project or projects, through or by any agent or agents which it may designate.
Section 9. The Treasurer of the State, with the written approval of the Attorney General of the State as to the constitutional and legal authority of the said Treasurer to make such a loan, may lend to an Authority, from the general fund of the State, a sum or sums of money not exceeding at any one time twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) in the aggregate. All sums so advanced shall constitute an indebtedness of the Authority and shall be repaid out of any funds which the Authority may have available for such purpose at any time. Any city, village or incorporated town included in the area of operation of an Authority may sell, convey, or lease any of its interest in any property or grant easements, licenses or any other rights or privileges therein or with respect thereto, to the Authority, irrespective of the purposes for which such property or such interest therein may have been acquired. Such city, village or incorporated town is authorized to sell any such property, property rights, or interest therein, to the Authority at private sale without advertisement or competitive bidding, and, in the case of property, property rights or interest therein, devoted or dedicated to a public use, the city, village or incorporated town is authorized to make grants to the Authority on such terms and under such conditions as it may deem advisable. The Authority is authorized to acquire and accept any such property, property rights or interest therein as it may deem necessary or desirable in the development of a project pursuant to this Act.
Section 10. Whenever the housing authority cannot agree with the owner or owners of any land, building, franchise, easement, or other property necessary to be taken or used in the construction, reconstruction, or maintenance of any housing project or proposed housing project, which the housing authority shall construct, reconstruct, or otherwise improve, or shall propose to construct, reconstruct, or otherwise improve, for the purpose thereof, the said housing authority may apply to the associate judge of the State of Delaware, resident in the county where any such property necessary to be taken is located for the condemnation of such property, first giving to the other party or owner at least five days' notice in writing of the intended application if such party or owner is within the State, and if said party or owner is unknown or without the State, or if under legal disability and having no legal representative in the State then such notice shall be published in some newspaper in the county in which said property proposed to be taken is located at least five days prior to the intended applications, and such publication shall be sufficient notice; upon application made as aforesaid, the said associate judge shall appoint five judicious and impartial freeholders to view the premises or ascertain the easement or franchise, and assess the damages which the owner or owners will sustain by reason of the said construction, reconstruction, or other improvements, or the taking of such property. The freeholders shall be sworn or affirmed before some officer authorized to administer oaths or affirmations, before entering on the premises or before ascertaining the easement or franchise, faithfully and impartially to perform the duties assigned them. They shall give ten days' notice, in writing, to the owner or owners of the premises or property so proposed to be condemned or to their guardian or guardians, duly appointed, if within the State and to the said Housing authority of the time of their meeting to view the premises or ascertain the easement or franchise; if the owner or owners are unknown or are without the State or if under legal disability and having no legal representative in the State, publication of such last mentioned notice shall be made in some newspaper in the County in which the proceedings were instituted at least ten days prior to the said meeting and such publication shall be sufficient notice thereof. The said commissioners shall keep a record of their proceedings with their findings and awards and return the same to the Prothonotary of the County in which the said proceedings were instituted, and shall certify their findings and awards to the owner or owners of the property and to the housing authority; if the housing authority or any party in interest is dissatisfied with such findings or awards, it or he may, on application to said Prothonotary within fifteen days after such findings and awards have been made and filed, sue out a writ of ad quod damnum, requiring the Sheriff of said County, in the usual form, to inquire of twelve impartial men of his bailiwick of the damages which will be sustained as aforesaid, and their report shall be final. The said commissioners or the said jury shall, in assessing the damages aforesaid, take into consideration the benefits and advantages to the owner or owners resulting from the proposed improvement and set off the value of such benefits or advantages against the loss, detriment and disadvantages, which such owner will suffer; provided that in no case shall the amount estimated as and for the benefits and advantages exceed the amount allowed for loss, detriment or disadvantage to such owner. The amount of damages being ascertained, the housing authority may pay or tender the amount thereof within two months after the same shall have been so ascertained, to the person or persons so entitled thereto, or, if the person or persons so entitled refuse to accept or reside out of or are absent from the county during all or any part of said period of two months, the same may be deposited to his credit in the Farmers' Bank of the State of Delaware, in the county seat of the county where in such proceedings are instituted, within said time, and thereupon said property may be taken and occupied for the use and purpose for which it was condemned; provided that the housing authority in its discretion, after it has made application as aforesaid, for the condemnation of the property, may occupy or use such property without delay, and the proceedings for the ascertainment of the damages shall proceed as in this section provided, but in the event of such immediate use or occupation as last aforesaid, the housing authority shall pay to the owner or owners thereof if within the State, or if such owner or owners refuse to accept the amount of damages or are without the County, deposit to his or their credit in the said bank as aforesaid, within ten days after the damages have been ascertained, the amounts thereof. The expenses of the assessment by the said commissioners of the damages shall in all cases be paid by the housing authority. The said judge shall have power to fill any vacancy in any commission and thereafter the commission shall proceed as though no vacancy had occurred. In addition to the manner of condemnation of property in this section provided, the said housing authority shall have the right to condemn any property in this Act mentioned for the purposes of this Act, in the same manner and as fully as any property under the provisions of Chapter 55, of the Revised Code. Whenever any property shall be acquired by the housing authority in any manner, the title of such property shall be in the housing authority for the purpose for which it was acquired.
Section 11. All property, both real and personal, acquired, owned, leased, rented or operated by an Authority shall be deemed public property for public use.
Section 12. All projects of an Authority shall be subject to the planning, zoning, sanitary and building laws, ordinances and regulations applicable to the locality in which the project is to be situated.
Section 13. Subject to the restrictions set forth in this Act, an Authority may incur any indebtedness and issue any obligations and give any security therefor which it may deem necessary or advisable in connection with any project undertaken by it hereunder. Authorization for the issuance of bonds shall be made by resolution of the Authority and the bonds shall be signed by any agent whom the Authority shall designate. The bonds, notes, or other evidences of indebtedness executed by an Authority shall not be a debt or charge against the State, county, municipality, or any subdivision or agency or instrumentality thereof other than the said Authority, and no individual liability shall attach for any lawful official act done by any commissioner, but a commissioner shall be liable for his own malfeasance. The rights of creditors of an Authority shall be solely against such Authority as a corporate body and shall be satisfied only out of property held by it in its corporate capacity and the enforcement of such rights shall be subject to all the provisions of this act.
Section 14. An Authority may, in connection with the borrowing of funds, or otherwise, enter into any agreement with the federal government or any agency or subdivision thereof, including, specifically, the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works and the Public Works Emergency Housing Corporation, providing for supervision and control of the Authority of any project, and containing such covenants, terms and conditions as the Authority may deem advisable.
Section 15. With reference to any project not aided or financed in whole or in part by the Federal Government, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, and not supervised or controlled by the federal government, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, such Authority shall be subject to the supervision of the State Board of Housing in the same manner as limited dividend corporations organized under the State Housing Law.
Section 16. The Board shall collect and distribute information relating to the administration of Authorities and to the construction, maintenance and operation of projects. The Board shall suggest and assist in the preparation of legislation relating to Authorities and their functions. The Board may, in its discretion, prescribe methods and forms for keeping accounts, records and books to be used by an Authority, and prescribe accounts to which particular outlays and receipts shall be entered, charged or credited. The Board may require any Authority to file periodical reports not oftener than quarterly, covering its operations and activities in a form prescribed by the Board and may, from time to time, require specific answers to questions upon which the Board may desire in- formation. The Board may investigate the conditions and affairs of an Authority, its dealings, transactions or relationships and the manner in which projects are managed, and may through its members or employees enter upon and inspect property, equipment, buildings, plants and offices of an Authority and examine its books, contracts, records, documents and papers. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to alter the provisions of the statutes of this State prescribing the qualifications of persons authorized by law to plan and to supervise the construction, enlargement, or alteration of buildings.
Section 17. Prior to the acquisition of title to any real property an Authority shall submit to the Board data as to the location and cost of the property, and prior to the undertaking of any construction an Authority shall submit to the Board the proposed plans, specifications and estimates of the costs and a statement of the proposed methods of financing and operating the project. An Authority shall not finally acquire title to any real estate nor undertake the construction or operation of a project without the approval of the Board; provided that, if the Board shall fail within thirty days after receipt thereof to state its disapproval of the proposals or such modifications thereof as it may deem desirable, the proposals shall be deemed to have been approved as submitted. No change involving an expenditure of more than twenty-five hundred dollars ($2500) shall be made in any proposal approved by the Board without submission to the Board in the manner prescribed in this Section. The provisions of this Section shall not apply with reference to any project which is or is to be aided or financed in whole or in part by the federal government.
Section 18. All materials furnished to and all labor for an Authority in excess of the probably cost of five hundred dollars ($500.00) except materials and labor used in the maintenance and operation of housing projects, and employees directly under the Authority, shall be supplied or done under contract made after competitive bids have been requested and submitted.
Section 19. Whenever an Authority desires to discontinue its operations, it shall make application to the Board for permission to dissolve. Permission to dissolve shall be given only upon the showing, satisfactory to the Board, that all projects undertaken by the Authority have been completed, or abandoned with the approval of the Board, that provision satisfactory to a majority of its creditors, holding a majority in the amount of claims, has been made, and that the continued existence of the Authority would not serve the public interest. Notice of such application for permission to dissolve shall be given to all creditors of the Authority in such manner as the Board shall approve. If the application to dissolve shall be granted, the Board shall either (a) designate an agent to take possession of the Authority, to dispose of all of its property in the manner authorized herein, and, after paying or making pro- visions for the debts and liabilities of the Authority and the expenses of dissolution, pay the balance remaining, if any, into the General Funds of the State; or (b) the Board may, after proper provision has been made for paying or meeting the debts and liabilities of an Authority and the expenses of dissolution, approve an agreement conveying the property of the Authority to the State, provided that no debt or obligation of the Authority shall become the debt or obligation of the State by virtue of such conveyance, unless expressly assumed by the State.
Section 20. The provisions of this Act shall be severable, and if any of its provisions shall be held to be unconstitutional, the decision so holding shall not be construed to affect the validity of any of the remaining provisions of this Act. It is hereby declared as the legislative intent that this Act would have been adopted had such unconstitutional provision not been included therein.
Section 21. All laws and parts of laws inconsistent herewith are hereby repealed so far as such inconsistency exists.
Section 22. This Act shall become effective from, and after its passage and approval by the Governor.
Approved April 24, 1934.