| Louis Ricardo

Catholic Charities Open New Affordable Housing in Ruskin

Catholic Charities has partnered with Hillsborough County’s Affordable Housing Services Department to open a new affordable housing complex in Ruskin. The new initiative, Las Villas Apartments, was formerly an abandoned 13-unit, single-story motel. Catholic Charities renovated the property with an extreme makeover and it now offers beautiful, contemporary residences for local families in need.

On June 22, 2022, Monsignor Robert Morris, Vicar General of the Diocese of St Petersburg and President of Catholic Charities Board of Trustees, blessed the property and its residents during a dedication ceremony. He, along with Father John McEvoy, pastor of nearby St. Anne Parish, sprinkled holy water on the building, grounds and each unit’s door. Bishop Gregory Parkes could not attend because of his recent surgery.

The ceremony was attended by local parishioners of St. Anne and a host of others. Among them: Hillsborough County Commissioner for District 7 and Chair, Kimberly Overman, several Hillsborough County staff, Board member, Cecelia Mahone, Catholic Charities donors, Harry Hedges and Marc Rosenwasser, whose firm manages two Catholic Charities affordable housing properties, and representatives for Sen. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan.

“We are ecstatic for the grand opening and look forward to more amazing projects and partnerships,” said Tramaine Whittey with Hillsborough County’s Affordable Housing group.

Kimberly Overman, chair of the County’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board, praised the project and the partnership.

“What is incredibly unique to this project is that we gave new life and purpose, to what was an otherwise rundown motel. It is partnerships like these that are incredibly important and vital to find alternative and creative ways to build more affordable housing inventory in Hillsborough County,” Overman said.

This housing initiative was inspired by Courageously Living the Gospel, the diocesan vision announced by Bishop Parkes in 2018. One of the priorities of the vision was to establish 8 – 10 new locations of affordable housing facilities because the Church believes we serve Christ by serving others. This effort has only grown more relevant as time passes.

“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,” said Maggie Rogers, Executive Director of Catholic Charities.

At the dedication ceremony, elected officials delivered messages of support and congratulations, including U.S. Representative, Vern Buchanan, whose local representative MarDee Buchman, cited the Congressman’s co-sponsorship of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, an important resource for creating affordable housing.

Luis Laracuente shared a letter from Senator Rick Scott that read in part: “I am honored to join Catholic Charities in celebrating the opening of your new facility. Thank you for providing a source of strength and perseverance for Florida families.”

Las Villas Apartments is the sixth of eight Catholic Charities new affordable housing complexes which will be opened by the end of this year with number seven planned to open in August and number eight in December.