Litchfield News

National recognition granted for Northfield project (01-11-11)

Conversion of the old Northfield firehouse into two units of affordable housing has earned the town and the Litchfield Housing Trust a national award. First Selectman Leo Paul Jr. announces the award at his Town Hall office.

A successful conversion of old Northfield firehouse into two units of affordable housing has earned the town and the Litchfield Housing Trust national recognition.

The National Community Development Association has named the town and housing trust winners of the 2011 Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award. The award, 14 of which are being given nationally, recognizes exemplary use of federal funds to address needs of low-income families.

First Selectman Leo Paul Jr. announced the honor on Friday. Housing trust President Robert Petricone will receive the award at the NCDA's winter legislative and policy meeting in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21.

Litchfield is one of four Connecticut municipalities getting the award, the others being Bridgeport, Danbury and Hartford. Litchfield is also the only small town among the 14 national winners.

"This award is indicative of the quality of the housing trust's work," Paul said. "They've been great, and we are proud of them."

The old firehouse, built in 1885, has been converted into two three-bedroom rental units for families at or below 60 percent of the town's median income of $73,500. The project was funded by a federal Small Cities Community Development Block Grant of $500,000,
Two families selected by the housing trust are scheduled to move in soon. The two units feature the latest in "green" technology, including closed cell insulation, geothermal heat pumps, Energy Star appliances and insulated windows. The features will keep energy costs affordable for the residents, Petricone said.

Conversion of the firehouse was a project 10 years in the making. Before town grant writer Larry Wagner secured the grant and the town provided the building, a lengthy process was required that involved the state and land it owned on Knife Shop Road.

The town had to negotiate a deal that awarded the town the Knife Shop Road property, on which the new Northfield firehouse would be built. In turn, the town was required to convert the old firehouse into affordable housing.

Northfield's new firehouse was finished in 2008, allowing the affordable housing project to begin. The town's public works department chipped in by removing the old firehouse's oil tank, hauling away the demolished fire truck bay, and doing site work. That work saved the housing trust thousands of dollars.
With the Northfield project complete, the housing trust's portfolio of rental and ownership housing units increases to 49. The housing trust has been providing affordable housing for nearly 20 years, allowing families of moderate income to remain in town.