Habitat wants to build on two donated lots

DANBURY - One of the first parcels in the city to be identified three years ago as blighted will become the site of a new Habitat for Humanity house.

After an old multi-family house at 25 Maple Ave. near the railroad tracks burned down years ago, people kept dumping cars, mattresses and other garbage in the vacant lot that remained. "We had to clear that out four or five times," said
Larry Miguel , blight officer for Danbury. "We found mattresses in there, feces, old junked cars. There was a lot of stuff on that lot." During one visit, city officials had to wait for people sleeping in an abandoned car to wake up and leave before they could remove the car and other garbage. Property owner
Hurbert Fenton died in 2004, and his family then donated the land to Habitat. "He (Fenton) and I talked it over for about a year," said Chris Brown , executive director of the Housatonic Habitat for Humanity . "Last year we were begging for land. Now we have the land, and we need money." The Fenton family also donated a second property to the local Habitat chapter, an abandoned house at 75 Town Hill Ave. It was surrounded by overgrown trees and shrubs, Miguel said, and people broke in and lived there. "Finally there was a fire." When Habitat took over, the trees and shrubs were removed, and the house was boarded up. "We haven't gotten to the planning stage yet," Brown said. "It's a huge house, but it's a little rundown." Habitat may renovate the building as it is, or it may tear it down and build a new one. The Maple Avenue site would suit a single-family home with either two or three bedrooms. Habitat hasn't found a corporate or business sponsor for the projects yet, nor have recipients of the homes been chosen. "The family, right from day one, begins to build their own house. They have a stake in the house. They literally are a part of it," said Trish Palmer , secretary of the Habitat board and a member of the Danbury task force fighting homelessness. "The goal is for the family to be successful as homeowners." Habitat takes land and, working with volunteers who are often local building contractors and trades people, builds a house for a specific family. The husband or wife works alongside the trades people to build the house. After putting in about 400 hours of construction time, the family becomes responsible for paying the mortgage on the house. "We give people a hand up, not a handout," Brown said.

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