NEW PORT RICHEY – West Pasco Habitat for Humanity's new partner opened its checkbook Tuesday to help redevelop the Van Doren Avenue and Leisure Lane neighborhood west of U.S. 19.
Pasco commissioners agreed to lend $500,000 from a reserve account to the agency to continue its efforts to acquire and demolish dilapidated structures and rebuild single-family homes in the neighborhood known as Town & Country Villas.
Habitat bought 17 properties in January and still owes $176,000 on the $200,000 acquisition. It has 13 additional properties under contract for nearly $165,000 and is negotiating to acquire a dozen more. It plans to build 35 houses on the 42 parcels and expects to have its first single-family home completed by October.
"What currently is a blighted neighborhood will soon provide decent, affordable homes,'' said Johannes Appelgrijn, executive director of the West Pasco Habitat for Humanity.
Later, he told commissioners, "I believe the community will change quickly.''
The two-street neighborhood is dotted with empty lots amid aging mobile homes, several of which date to the 1950s. Some have exposed insulation and other visible signs of deterioration, and many sport ''No trespassing'' signs. Complaints about drug use and street-walking prostitution are common.
Cleaning up the area has become the focus of a year-long effort by the county and city of New Port Richey to contain crime and eliminate blight. The area is west of U.S. 19 near Gulf Drive, and is adjacent to the Southgate shopping district in the city and the upscale Gulf Harbors neighborhood in the county.
"Everybody in this whole area is going to be thrilled,'' said Commissioner Jack Mariano, a member of Habitat's board of directors.
It will be cheaper for residents to buy the newly built houses than to rent one of the aging mobile homes that can cost a tenant up to $650 a month.
"Wow,'' said Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, "for that trash.''
The initial 17 lots were owned by Salvatore Poliandro, who was no stranger to Pasco County Code Enforcement officials. Last fall, he objected to a commission order to demolish two of his Leisure Lane properties.
But in divesting himself of the ramshackle housing, Poliandro told Habitat "I just want to do the right thing,'' said Appelgrijn.
Town & Country Villas is the first time West Pasco Habitat for Humanity has attempted a neighborhood-wide redevelopment. Under the terms of the loan, the agency must repay the debt by 2021.
Commission Chairman Mike Wells said he hoped the effort can be repeated in Moon Lake.
Reach C.T. Bowen at email@example.com or (813)435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2