Valrico family receives brand-new home from local non-profit, Hillsborough County

A Valrico family was given a brand-new home thanks to a collaborative effort from local non-profit Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County

Terri Hughes, a Valrico native, said the moment she was handed the keys to her brand-new home is something she will never forget. 

"This is one step below the birth of my children," Hughes said. "I can't think of anything quite as good as this." 

Hughes said she was filled with gratitude when she walked into the two-bedroom, two-bath home equipped with all the latest energy saving technology. 

MORE: Another Florida property insurer filed plans to withdraw from state

"I've never had my own bathroom or bedroom in my life. And I'm 67-years-old," Hughes said. "Nothing's broken. Nothing's dangerous."

The home stands on the same property where she's lived since 1988. She's been raising her 19-year-old grandson there alone since he was born and is happy to live in a place where they can feel safe again. Her previous house was built in the mid-1950s and began deteriorating over the decades, while her health also declined and prevented her from repairing it. 

"The termites determined it was an all you could eat buffet. And they enjoyed it. And they came back for more. And then my house started to collapse. And then Irma came and wrecked the house," Hughes recalled. "I never had people over because I was afraid, they were going to get hurt." 

Jose Garcia, the executive director of Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay, said Hughes became a candidate for their program after they learned of her living situation while she was volunteering for the organization. 

"The team came to the office, and they said, we have the perfect candidate that will benefit tremendously for this project," Garcia said. "We were doing rehab for low-income homeowners, but we also built affordable housing. And from that we got better. And that's why we are here today. Building houses is also pieces of doing residential rehab."

Cheryl Howell, assistant county administrator for Equity and Community impact for Hillsborough County, said the county paid $225,000 to build the new home. Hughes will not be required to pay a mortgage, instead a lien will be placed on the home for 20 years. 

READ: This is the salary you need to afford a home in Florida

"This home is paid for. There's absolutely no repayment," Howell said. "This is a true investment from our border county commissioners to our residents"

Hughes plans on staying here for the rest of her life and is looking forward to a comfortable future in it with her grandson. She encourages anyone who is in a similar situation to what she was in to not be afraid to ask for help. 

"Don't despair, there are good people out there who care and that's important," Hughes said. "You get to a point where you just want to give up and then something like this happens, and it's like a rebirth."