Housatonic Habitat begins Ridgefield 'house hunt'

RIDGEFIELD — Housatonic Habitat for Humanity started in 1991 by a group of Ridgefield residents.

Now, 30 years and 34 homes later, Housatonic Habitat for Humanity is looking to return to Ridgefield. The initiative, “Habitat Ridgefield Site Search ’21,” is spearheaded by the organization and Ridgefield’s Affordable Housing Committee.

“We are proud that our local heritage means Ridgefield business, churches and individuals can build on the original local Habitat commitment begun by a group of Ridgefielder’s around a kitchen table decades ago,” said Kent Rohrer, a Ridgefield resident and Habitat’s board president. “The Habitat model places qualified local working families in homes they can afford.”

The groups are looking for donated or near-donated land, and gifts, including homes to be renovated.

“Many good sites are out of reach so we hope someone can work with us to make acquisitions affordable for us,” said Housatonic Habitat’s Executive Director Fran Normann.

The ideal site is served by town sewer and water, or is near an existing well and septic system, she said.

“We aim to build on land in Ridgefield or renovate a single-family home that fits into its neighborhood, and sell it to a family who qualifies because they have the goals to succeed,” she said.

This will be the first home Habitat builds in Ridgefield, having done 34 in the region. The last home they built was in January for a single parent, who works at a hospital in New Milford and is a U.S. veteran with two young sons.

Dave Goldenberg, chair of Ridgefield’s Affordable Housing Committee, praised the effort to come to Ridgefield.

“Each Habitat home changes the lives of its homeowner as well as towns like ours,” he said. “We are adding hardworking families who will contribute to the rich fabric of Ridgefield.”

Members have been on the hunt since Habitat was founded, but feel COVID has intensified the importance of a safe and affordable place to live and raise children. The homes allow children to stay in the same school district, eliminating the need for them to move from apartment to apartment as a renting family, Normann said.

“The current pandemic has taught us that families can thrive in a safe environment,” Normann said. “It is the foresight of Ridgefielders like Joanne and John Patrick, the late Lou Price and others that encourages us to pursue this mission.”

She said the Habitat model is a hand up, not a hand out. It uses volunteers and materials and services from local businesses to build or renovate a home that is sold at a lower price to a qualified working family who live or work in the region. There is also a subsidized affordable mortgage.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi supported the effort.

“Habitat was founded here, and many of its volunteers and donors are from Ridgefield,” he said. “I’m hoping Ridgefielders will step up and help realize a dream for Housatonic Habitat—and a deserving family.”