Habitat’s Cornwall project is a go

CORNWALL — Habitat for Humanity of Addison County (HHAC) is ready to break ground on the town of Cornwall’s first-ever affordable housing subdivision, a project off DeLong Road that will eventually accommodate four families.
“There will be a lot of busy activity down (at the project site), hopefully within the next couple of weeks,” said Bruce Byers, who co-chairs the HHAC’s capital campaign with fellow board member William Biederman.
Habitat officials see the impending construction of roadway, septic systems and landscaping as a rewarding benchmark following months of permit hearings and property acquisition talks.
The Cornwall Planning Commission approved the four-lot planned unit development in June, Byers noted. Cornwall’s town plan calls for the creation of more affordable housing, which would be achieved in part through the HHAC project. The project calls for four homes to be built on approximately two acres of a 13-acre parcel HHAC acquired from John and Elaine Tavalozzi for $85,000. The remaining 11 acres is to be kept open.
Habitat formally closed on the property in July, according to Byers. With the land now officially under title and a permit in hand, Habitat officials are soliciting bids from contractors interested in putting in the new subdivision driveway off DeLong Road, as well as installing the four septic systems to serve the future homes.
Byers would like to see the site ready for construction of the first, and possibly two, of the four homes beginning next spring.
It should be noted that HHAC has already laid a solid financial foundation for the project.
Organizers last year obtained voter checklists from 17 Addison County towns. They pored over those lists and identified the names of more than 1,100 potential contributors to a $375,000 fund-drive to build the four homes within the next three years.
Solicitation letters to those people yielded a list of around 60 people who have pledged a combined total of more than $125,000 toward the goal. Some of those people have agreed to donate $1,000 per year for three years; others have agreed to a more modest monthly contribution for the duration of the campaign.
“A lot of people are happy to hear there is going to be some Habitat housing,” Byers said.
Habitat officials believe the prospects for a second phase of fund raising could be even more successful, given the $125,000 already in hand and the evidence of site work this fall. Plans call for the organization to post photos of the work in progress on the Habitat Website, www.middlebury.net/habitat/index.html.
“We want people to understand we are well under way to construction of the first house,” Byers said.
Along with seeking more private donations, HHAC will apply for grants in its quest to attain the $375,000 goal, Biederman said. He noted the organization has also reached out to Addison County’s places of worship, who have also pledged assistance.
Biederman believes affordable housing projects featuring multiple units make even more sense in the current era of limited resources and often lengthy permitting processes.
“It is difficult to permit in Vermont, so you do have to pool your money and your efforts into one thing,” Biederman said.
Money aside, Byers said has heard from several people interested in picking up a hammer or saw for a good cause. Habitat depends on volunteer labor — including at least 200 hours of help from the prospective homeowner — when building its abodes. It is through this volunteer labor and reasonably-priced construction material that Habitat is able to make the new homes available to qualifying buyers for reasonable, interest-free mortgage payments (around $700-$800 per month).
A family of four is eligible for a Habitat home provided it has an annual household income of not more that $49,600, according to guidelines provided by the organization.
HHAC is encouraging people to start applying for the four homes, which will be built to suit the needs and family sizes. All of the homes will be built on slab and will be built with high energy efficiency standards, according to Byers.
Habitat of Addison County has built five homes since it was established 13 years ago. The Habitat office number is 388-0400.
“We are trying to build homes with very modest mortgages, but at the same time with modest carrying costs,” Biederman said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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