Program started during Tampa Super Bowl continues changing lives in Bay Area

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The Super Bowl brought thousands of visitors to the Bay Area in 2009, but long after the fans left a housing program that came with the NFL's marquis event remains.

It's called Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay. Over the years, the organization has helped rehabilitate the homes of low income and disabled residents. 

It's also built new homes for first-time homebuyers.

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay's newest program, in cooperation with Hillsborough County Affordable Housing, targets homes beyond affordable repair.

The homes are demolished and replaced.

To qualify, applicants must own the home, have taxes paid up to date, and have no liens on the home. 

The program now has four such homes underway. One of them is in Plant City, where 74-year-old Barbara Collins lives with her son Benny, a disabled veteran.

Collins says every time it rained, the house would leak and often flood. 

"A lot of water coming in [and] sheetrock fell twice," described Collins, who worked as a teacher's aide and voluteered at her church before declining health forced her to retire.

Monday morning she got a first look at the foundation of the new home rising where her old home once stood.

"I'm very happy for everybody that's taken part in it and I thank God," she said.

Her daughter, Angela Smith, who was a furloughed federal employee, helped her with the application.

"We were out of work for 35 days and we went back yesterday," she said.

The family celebrated Barbara's new home.

"This is a life-changing program," said Cheryl Howell, director of Hillsborough Affordable Housing. "It not only creates hope for this family, but it creates hope for this community."

The Housing Demolition and Replacement program uses public and private funds along with volunteer services.

For more information on how to apply, contact Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay at 813-878-9000, ext. 5.