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Former Ruskin motel converted into affordable housing

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RUSKIN, Fla. (WFLA) — In an effort to address the affordable housing crisis, Catholic Charities, along with Hillsborough County have converted a former motel in Ruskin to affordable housing apartments.       

Leaders held a blessing and ribbon cutting ceremony at the site of the former Carol Motel located on U.S. 41. It’s now the Las Villas apartments. Catholic Charities is giving 13 people a place to live and offering them resources.

Casimiro Garcia saw the transformation.

“We had trouble with the toilets and electricity,” Garcia said.

He’s a tenant at Las Villa. He also lived there when it was the Carol Motel.

“Everything is completely new, before you know it had its issues.”

The County said it’s more than $54 million into the community in 2021, directly impacting more than 24,300 households.

Hillsborough County bought the motel for $1.5 million. It was renovated with $500,000 from Catholic Charities. The 13 units were renovated to create 13 efficiency apartments to be rented by low-income residents at below-market rates.

“How we’re able to house homeless families coming from the streets, living in their cars to this – it’s imperative that we have those partnerships with the community to get this done,” said Maggie Rogers, executive director of Catholic Charities.

Rogers said it’s part of their devotion to create up to 10 affordable housing developments in Tampa as part of Bishop Parkes’ Courageously Living the Gospel initiative. Las Villas is the eighth one.

“We have been in crisis for some time. Wages are flat, unemployment and underemployment are high while housing and rent costs continue to rise. The average person simply cannot afford it. Our goal is to help prevent as many families as possible from becoming homeless by creating more affordable housing,” Rogers said.

Commissioner Kimberly Overman, District 7, said Hillsborough County is at a crisis stage with less than a month’s worth of inventory of rental properties available.

A recent report from ‘Zumper’ shows Tampa rent is up about 33% from last year.

“Those that work and live in our community have grown up in our community are now competing for the lack of inventory that we have for affordable housing,” Overman said.

Las Villas is impacting Garcia’s life for the better.

“He does not have the resources to go elsewhere, so we’re glad that we’re able to have hear him back here and a safe place to stay,” Rogers said.

“It’s a blessing, you know, because if it wasn’t for them I couldn’t of done it,” Garcia said.

Catholic Charities said a 20-unit apartment at Mercy Oaks in Tampa will open in July.

Earlier this week, Mayor Jane Castor unveiled another affordable housing unit, at Sulphur Springs. The mayor hopes to build 10,000 affordable homes in Tampa by 2027.

Tampa recently opened a new call center to help residents amid the housing crisis. The number is 813-307-5555. It’s available Monday through Friday 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.

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