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Houses that hope created

Tampa teacher Charlotte Simmons is used to working with books and children. But Monday morning found her hefting a shovel alongside Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman.

The two teamed up as part of groundbreaking ceremonies in four Tampa neighborhoods that will result in the building of 100 new homes for first-time homebuyers, said Steve LaBrake, division manager for the Community Redevelopment Agency.

A year before she found herself behind a shovel, Simmons, a single mother of four, attended a meeting at the Lee Davis Community Center about a new city effort to make home ownership possible for Tampa residents who normally could not afford it.

"At first I thought it was a lot of baloney," said Simmons, a renter in the Sulphur Springs area. "And now look. It's one year later and in about 90 days we'll be moving into our own home. The people involved were persistent. They went right on down the road for us."

Three local banks, Barnett, NationsBank and Sun Bank, will carry the mortgages for the homes at rates from 6.5 to 7 percent, LaBrake said.

About $3.5-million in federal funding is being used in the $8-million project, city records show. A study says the home building will have an economic impact of more than $15-million and create or maintain 187 full-time jobs.

Simmons' home will be part of the new Osborne Woods subdivision at the intersection of Osborne Avenue and 26th Street. New homes will also be built in the 3000 block of Ybor Street and the 400 blocks of E Virginia and E Francis streets. Fifty existing homes in the Ponce De Leon neighborhood will be rehabbed, LaBrake said.