The only sign that something is being built is the cement truck pouring concrete into a foundation and a sign in front of an expansive 3 acres that says "Presenting Providence Pointe." But in 18 months, the now-deserted landscape will be home to 15 new Habitat for Humanity Hillsborough homes.
The organization's new subdivision, Providence Pointe, will be located off U.S. 301 on Radio Lane between the Sabal Park industrial park and Tampa Bypass Canal.
This is the fourth subdivision the nonprofit has built in Hillsborough County, but it almost didn't happen after two county commissioners objected to using taxpayer money to support Providence Pointe after Habitat's last subdivision, Grant Park, had problems with drainage and flooding, according to 2009 transcripts of a county public hearing.
The organization had originally planned for 25 homes in the Radio Lane subdivision but then-Commissioners Kevin White and Jim Norman found problems with the density of the homes compared to the rest of the neighborhood and what effect that would have on drainage problems, according to the transcripts. The county had put an additional $40,000 of taxpayers' money to fix the problems with Grant Park.
In response, Habitat adjusted its proposal to 15 homes with a water retention pond that spans the back of the lots, community relations director Kathy Brogli said.
The organization ended up receiving $465,000 from the county to purchase the 3-acre property and an additional $501,000 from a Community Block Development Grant to build the infrastructure.
Habitat Hillsborough only has enough sponsorships for the construction of the first four homes, Brogli said. The neighborhood could be finished after 12 to 18 months depending on when the organization can find sponsors for remaining homes.
Despite its tumultuous start, Habitat Hillsborough premiered the new subdivision last weekend.
Future homeowner Patricia Ashford and her three daughters were at the construction site to meet the other families and express their gratitude to the nonprofit. She learned in late June that the family would receive the first house in the neighborhood.
"I'm just so grateful to the Lord that I can call anything home," Ashford said. "I'm real grateful to just be a homeowner."
Ashford works as a bus cleaner for Hillsborough Transit. She and her kids have lived in Section 8 housing for the past five years and have moved every year after the homes kept failing inspection.
"I was told I couldn't put up a security light because I wasn't the homeowner," Ashford said. "I couldn't even install a security alarm."
The houses in Providence Pointe will have between two and five bedrooms with two baths depending on family needs. Each will feature an open floor plan, a walk-in master bedroom closet and tile flooring throughout.
The bungalows will be eco-friendly with energy-efficient doors and windows, low-flow faucets and toilets and Whirlpool EnergyStar appliances.
Ashford plans to pick out the exterior colors, a dark brown trim with tan walls, this week. The walls will be raised on Saturday morning at 9, followed by the roof trusses. She said she hopes they will move in within the next eight to 15 weeks.
"I'm just really grateful," Ashford said. "Just thinking about it makes me want to cry."
Habitat homeowners pay $1,500 in closing costs up front and purchase the homes at cost. The average sales price is around $99,000, Brogli said.
Homeowner candidates must have a steady income, decent or repairable credit and the ability to pay a monthly mortgage. They must also have a demonstrated housing need like unsafe conditions, overcrowding or unaffordable rent (more than 30 percent of the income).
Each candidate must also agree to donate 300 hours of "sweat equity" in helping build their own and other's homes.
Biz Carson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2441.