NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - Matthew Peterson and his young daughters have started a new life.

What You Need To Know

  • Dilapidated homes torn down, new homes going up

  • Neighbors say conditions have greatly improved, crime has gone down

  • Plan is for nearly 50 homes to be built

  • More Pasco County headlines

It’s in a neighborhood many wouldn’t have stepped foot in just a year ago.

“It’s going really well,” Peterson said. “We love it. It’s an amazing program.”

He’s one of several new homeowners in a neighborhood called “Town and Country Villas” in New Port Richey.

The area, which is located near US 19 and Gulf Drive, has long been known for its dilapidated homes and crime.

Now, it’s looking a lot different with new neighbors moving in.

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco came into the neighborhood more than two years ago. They started buying up and demolishing some of the old, dilapidated homes that were attracting crime.

“This has historically been a neighborhood that’s had a lot of drugs, prostitution and crime,” said CEO Mike Sutton. “Since Habitat came in here and partnered with the county and city, we’ve been able to push a lot of that out.”

Twenty-six of those old homes are now gone. Five brand new ones have been built, with five more nearly done and dozens more planned.

“It’s really exciting to see families establish their homes and start a new chapter in life,” Sutton said.

As with all Habitat homes, the homeowners put in hundreds of hours of what’s called “sweat equity” to get an interest free mortgage.

Many of them, like Peterson, completed their hours by fixing up their new community.

“It’s an amazing feeling knowing that we are being a betterment to the community,” Peterson said.

The plan is to have 45 new homes built over the next few years. Habitat is also working with Pasco County to eventually get new roads put in as well.