Glastonbury, Connecticut Manny's Place
In 2006, the town's Marine Corps League building burned down. As the town manager and council held discussions about what to do with the property, there was consensus that the property should continue to be used to serve veterans. After hearing about the work of Purple Heart Homes, the Glastonbury Town Manager got in touch with the organization to discuss a potential partnership. The mission of Purple Heart Homes is to help provide personalized housing solutions for service-connected disabled veterans and their families.
After engaging in promising conversations with numerous partners including the town's Rotary Club and the Marine Corps League about the project, the partners identified Marine Corps Corporal Manny Jimenez, a wounded veteran from the nearby town of New Britain as a person in need of assistance.
To provide Cpl. Jimenez with the home necessary to meet his needs, the Rotary Club partnered with Purple Heart Homes as a community service project and began their work of arranging materials and volunteers. Rotary leaders developed task-specific committees to coordinate the project's needs on areas including architectural plans, engineering, foundation work, framing, roofing, siding, windows and doors, insulation, plumbing and electrical work, paving, drywall, painting, and landscaping. Nearly 400 volunteers worked on the project during its development, including locally competitive electrical and plumbing companies, the town's garden club, and a group of New York City first-responders from the organization H.E.A.R.T. 9/11. Purple Heart Homes contributed approximately $30,000 to pay for materials such as lumber, drywall, and concrete.
As the project moved forward, the town and Purple Heart Homes came into agreement about how to provide the land to Purple Heart Homes in a way that also protected the town's future fiduciary interests. The town formally conveyed the property to Purple Heart Homes in November 2011 for $1. The town and Purple Heart Homes agreed the property should not receive preferential treatment. The property was already zoned for residential use, permits were applied and paid for without preference (at an additional cost of about $4,000), and inspections occurred in turn. Once the project is completed in June, Purple Heart Homes will sell the land and structure to Cpl. Jimenez for $1.
To provide Cpl. Jimenez the benefit of an affordable home, while protecting the town's interests in any future transactions, the agreement between the town and Purple Heart Homes gives the town the right of first refusal in any future transaction involving either the land or the building. The town retains its right to repurchase the land for $1, while the value of the building is determined using mutually agreed upon appraisers. If the town forgoes its right of first refusal on both the land and the building, the town will receive the land's appraised value from any transaction. In exchange for receiving the land for $1 from the town, Purple Heart Homes agreed to only sell the property to a service-connected disabled veteran who would use the property for a single-family residence that is owner-occupied.
All normal property taxes will remain applicable and become the responsibility of Cpl. Jimenez, so architects worked to keep the home's assessed value as low as possible, while ensuring the home met community building standards and Cpl. Jimenez's accessibility needs. To accomplish this, architects left the home's basement unfinished, kept the square footage as compact as possible, and did not build in attic space or a spare room over the garage. Additionally, building materials and design elements such as stone veneer and arched windows were used to maintain costs while giving the perception of a more expensive property.
Meeting the needs of veterans in communities across the country will require creative solutions and innovative practices such as those developed by the Town of Glastonbury and Purple Heart Homes. To learn more about the work of the National League of Cities on housing for veterans with disabilities, contact Elisha Harig-Blaine at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (202) 626-3005.