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Building houses for homes

By Jon Bishop

AYER — Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts on Monday broke ground on its second Ayer-based project: a duplex home at 76 Central Ave., a plot of land that was tax titled, according to Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand.

“I think it’s exciting to develop this plot of land,” he said, adding that the project presented a great “opportunity to bring the whole community together.”

Many in attendance said bringing others together and helping those in need is something Ayer does well.

“I think the fact that Ayer” wants to build two more Habitat houses shows that it supports affordable housing, said state Sen. Jamie Eldridge.

Every community should do its share, he said. “Ayer’s definitely been a leader in supporting Habitat for Humanity and in looking after those less fortunate.”

He later said Ayer is a community in which people care about and “look after one another.”

Maggie Monroe-Cassel, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts, expressed appreciation for the town’s support.

“How many times can you say ‘thank you’?” she said.

Habitat for Humanity has served 4 million people, she said, and provides “the hope that some people are looking for.”

“Communities can change lives just by picking up a hammer,” she said.

Tom DuFault, vice president at North Middlesex Savings Bank, which supported the project, said “it’s exciting that we’re able to help two families.”

Many people took time out of their work day to attend the groundbreaking, he said, which drew more than 30 people.

“I’m very impressed by the number of people that showed up,” he said.

Monroe-Cassel, when asked why the organization decided to build another home in Ayer, said Habitat for Humanity hasn’t repeated many towns.

“That means it was a good experience the first time around,” she said. “That means the town welcomes us.”

It completed its first Ayer project in 2005.

Stephanie Gintner, of Ayer’s Habitat for Humanity committee, said she’s pleased to see the project get started.

“It’s exciting. I’m glad that it’s gotten off the ground,” she said. “They have a nice design for the house. I’m anxious to see it finished.”

Alicia Hersey, who works in Ayer’s Office of Economic Development, said that the duplex’s eventual occupants will have to quality as low-income.

Ayer is doing well with its affordable-housing requirement, she said. Right now, the town is up to 8.3 percent. Massachusetts Chapter 40B dictates at least 10 percent of a municipality’s housing be affordable.

Article 1 of the upcoming Oct. 27 Special Town Meeting asks Ayer residents to see if the town will appropriate $100,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to help with the 76 Central Ave. project.

Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts, at 138 Great Road in Acton, expects the home to be finished by March.

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