Wilton to donate land for Habitat for Humanity project

  • Caroline Partridge stands in front of her home on Russell Street in Wilton, built in the early 2010s by Habitat for Humanity. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Caroline Partridge stands in front of her home on Russell Street in Wilton, built in the early 2010s by Habitat for Humanity. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, October 11, 2018 10:50AM

Eight years ago, Caroline Partridge was on Russell Street every Saturday, pitching in alongside her community to raise her future home.

Partridge had been selected to receive a home built by Habitat for Humanity, a group which constructs homes for people living in inadequate housing, usually those who make under 50 percent of the average median income for an area. However, the family must also make enough to afford a no-interest mortgage and taxes on the house, and be able to put down one percent of the cost of the home as a down payment.

Partridge received the last home built in Wilton by Habitat for Humanity. The organization is back in town this year, after the Select Board has agreed to donate a piece of town-owned land taken for back taxes for another home build.

Partridge knows what a home can mean.

In 2010, she was living in an apartment with her two sons, now both adults. She was struggling enough to apply for welfare services, but was ultimately denied. But the welfare officer told her about an opportunity to apply to be selected for a Habitat for Humanity project.

She knew when she was selected, it was a special opportunity.

Habitat for Humanity recipients must give back in volunteer hours, working on their own house, someone elses, or taking classes in home ownership. Partridge said for the year her home was being built, she was on-site every Saturday, without fail.

“People, some you know and some you’ve never met before are coming together to build a house for you. You can’t imagine the scope of volunteer work that goes into building a house,” Partridge said. “Those people are helping me build a home. Of course I was going to be there every Saturday. How could I not?”

Her resulting home isn’t large, Partridge said, only about 900 square feet, with two bedrooms – “Cheap to heat and easy to clean,” as Partridge put it. But it’s also a home that’s affordable for her.

“I’m not sweating as much financially,” she said. “I used to have a lot of anxiety, because I couldn’t pay my bills. It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

And it’s a kind of freedom, owning your own property, she said.

“I can have a party on my birthday and not interfere with my neighbors, or decide to have a cookout. I can do what I want,” she said.

She said she’ll be first in line to assist with the proposed upcoming house build, to give another family that opportunity, if Wilton moves forward with donating a parcel of land to Habitat for Humanity for another project.

Wilton is moving forward with the public hearing process to officially donate that parcel. Selectmen have had preliminary discussions with representatives from the Greater Nashua Habitat for Humanity, who are interested in building a Habitat for Humanity home on 19 Pleasant Street.

The lot belongs to the town, after it was taken for non-payment of taxes. The house that was once on the property has been taken down and it’s now an open lot.

On Sept. 17, the Select Board signed a memorandum of understanding with Habitat for Humanity, indicating their support for the project and intent to donate the land. The memorandum also agrees that if possible, preference will be given to Wilton residents who apply to be a recipient of the home.

The memorandum is not binding, and can be canceled by either side. Before the town can officially donate the land, it must go through a process of public hearings and receive input from the Planning Board and Conservation Commission. But while that process is ongoing, the memorandum allows Habitat for Humanity to begin the fundraising process, as some sources require support from the landowner to apply.

There will be a public hearing for residents to learn more information about the project and give feedback on Monday at 6 p.m. in the Wilton Town Hall.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.