PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — With housing and rental rates on the rise, a local branch of Habitat for Humanity is working to grow.  

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco counties built 70 new homes last year, despite the pandemic, and they have more in the works for 2022.

What You Need To Know

  • Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco has continued building new homes through the pandemic.

  • A new “ReStore” in New Port Richey will open later this year.

  • Habitat is looking to build more homes this year, including on five acres on Little Road.

“We’re seeing rental rates and cost of house continue to increase around our region,” said Habitat CEO Mike Sutton. “An organization like Habitat has never been as important than it is right now.”

An ongoing project has been the development of Town and Country Villas, also called Leisure Lane, in New Port Richey.

It used to be a neighborhood of dilapidated homes and a lot of crime, like drugs and prostitution. Now 10 Habitat homes have been built there, revitalizing the area.

Latoya Brown was one of the first to move in there. For the first time, she owns her own home.

“It’s like a dream come true,” she said. “It’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Like any other homeowner, she pays a mortgage, but she also had to put in what Habitat calls “sweat equity” by working to build other Habitat homes and learn about the homebuying process.

“It was a journey, a learning experience, and it was fun,” Brown said.

In addition to the Leisure Lane development, Sutton said Habitat is in the process of purchasing five acres on Little Road in New Port Richey, near the VA clinic that’s nearly complete. A total of 30-40 homes will eventually be built there, he said.

Habitat is also building a new “ReStore” on U.S. 19 and Main Street, to provide a place to donate or purchase home items like furniture. It’s expected to open later this year.

Sutton hopes 2022 is one of Habitat's best years yet.

“We’ve had two record years, back to back, all while dealing with the pandemic,” he said. “That wouldn’t happen if we didn’t live in a caring community.”