Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity, an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, has received $1.85 million from the state’s Housing Trust Fund. Among its local projects are these houses at 11 and 19 Huntington St. in Hartford.

Some money from the state soon will translate into concrete foundations for families across Greater Hartford. Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity, an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, recently received $1.85 million from the state’s Housing Trust Fund.

The local Habitat chapter, which has built about 140 homes in the Hartford area since it began in 1989, intends to use that money to build about 60 more before 2009. The money should take the organization beyond 200 homes by 2009, according to Bill Zagorski, institutional development associate at Habitat. The money came at an opportune time.

“The need for simple, decent, affordable housing is great in the Hartford area,” Zagorski said.

Although Connecticut is generally recognized as the state with the highest per capita income in the country, Hartford is among the poorest cities in the country.

“It’s kind of a dichotomy,” Zagorski said.

Homeownership rates in the area are low, he said, adding that Habitat homes help their owners build assets and wealth, and are a reinvestment in the community.

The Housing Trust Fund money will allow the organization to increase its production from about 10 to 14 homes a year to 20 or more annually.

“That’s what we’re reaching for now,” Zagorski said.

That would ensure the local Habitat group will meet its goal of building 200 homes by 2009, the year of its 20th anniversary. The money also is helping to leverage support from other sources, and partnerships with corporations and the government are helping to build more homes.

This year, the organization plans to build 17 homes in Hartford and New Britain.

“Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity has committed itself to increasing the number of homes we plan to build in future years,” according to its Web site. “Having been blessed by leaders who were both well grounded and visionary, Hartford Habitat enjoys a favorable reputation both locally and among other affiliates in the Northeastern region of the [United States] as well as at Habitat for Humanity International in Americus, Ga.”

‘Critical Need’

The five-year, $100 million Housing Trust Fund provides gap financing in the form of loans and grants, and is designed to help create and preserve housing for low- and moderate-income working families.

“The $100 million Housing Trust Fund was created to address the critical need for more affordable housing in Connecticut. Today’s announcement signals the start of these funds ‘hitting the streets’ and making a real difference in the lives of Connecticut workers and their families,” said Gov. M. Jodi Rell in a prepared statement announcing this year’s grant recipients. “These seven funding recipients, with their proven track records of excellence in serving their clients and communities, are an important part of the solution of affordable housing in Connecticut, and it is our expectation that we will begin to feel the impact of this $10 million investment in their programs in the months and years ahead.”

The Stamford-based Housing Development Fund received $3 million, the largest of this year’s Housing Trust Fund grants. The other five beneficiaries include the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund, which received $1.75 million for a regional gap-financing pool and gap financing for owner-occupied rehabilitations for code compliance and handicapped accessibility; the Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven, which received $300,000 for a home maintenance and energy conservation program; the Bristol Development Authority, which received $400,000 for a community-wide rehabilitation program; the Corporation for Independent Living in Wethersfield, which received $1.5 million for grants for a statewide accessibility tenant program; and the Connecticut CDFI Alliance, which received $1.2 million for a statewide affordable-housing gap-financing program.

Homes built by Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity have housed more than 450 people in towns like Bloomfield, Manchester, Windsor, Rockville, Unionville, North Hartford and East Hartford. As of April, the cumulative cost of the homes built was more than $7 million.

The organization also is foraying into new building trends and constructing a duplex home using environmentally friendly, or “green,” building technology.

“It’s our first foray into it this spring,” Zagorski said. That sort of experiment will allow Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity to see which materials and practices will be cost-effective for future use.

United Technologies and Global Green USA are providing consulting support for that project, and Carrier Corp. and Nationwide are sponsoring the duplex. According to its Web site, Habitat will use the project as a template for future homes, and hopes to have the opportunity to try many new technologies.

There are about 1,400 Habitat for Humanity International affiliates in the United States and in 50 other countries, according to Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity’s Web site. The organizations work in partnership with people in need to build and renovate decent, affordable housing. The houses are then sold to those in need at no profit and with no interest charged. Volunteers – often including the future homeowners – work to build the homes.

The affiliates select homeowner families according to criteria that do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, ethnicity, or religious preference. Hartford Area Habitat counts among its supporters more than 14,000 area foundations, corporations, congregations, civic and professional associations, schools and individuals.