First Hurricane Disaster Home Goes to Happy New Owner

A Raymondville resident whose old house was battered by tropical storm Dolly is now the recipient of the first free house built as part of a hurricane recovery project. Norma Lopez’s home on 410 W. Wood Ave. is now brand new built at a cost estimated at $100,000. That included the ground elevation work, appliances and even first year insurance coverage.

“I am so happy,” she said before a brief ceremony held Thursday with local and Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council officials. “It’s a beautiful house.” She said the builder, J.W. Turner Construction Inc. of Tomball, worked very fast to build the house. In fact, it took them 17 days from the time they tore down the old house to the day it was completed.“All I can say is that I am very happy.”

Steve Brewer, board president with LRGVDC, they are glad to help people own a new house. LRGVDC is the agency administering the program for the US. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said Lopez’ and three more houses will be built in Raymondville.

“We have two houses in La Feria ready to start construction and 22 all over the Valley,” he said. “This is part of hurricane relief program geared for low to moderate income earners and the elderly.” Brewer said Valley residents like Lopez can get a free house if they meet certain qualifications.

Although a recipient doesn’t pay a dime, he or she will be in charge of paying taxes, utilities and can’t sell the house within three years. Lopez said she lived in the old house for 50 years, and can’t wait to move into the new one. “All I can say is that I am very happy,” she said. “I am so blessed.”

City Manager Eleazar “Yogi” Garcia Jr. and Edward Gonzales, the grant writer with Willacy County, as well as Brewer, congratulated Lopez. “This is the first of several homes,” Garcia said. “It’s well deserved.” Gonzales said Lopez is his godmother even though he did not know she was the first recipient of the housing project. Ken Jones, the LRGVDC executive director, said the Valley is one of four areas of the state that received funds from a $ 200 million plus package from HUD to help people impacted by the last two hurricanes.

The Valley was struck by Hurricane Dolly, causing water and wind damage as it went through the region in July 2008.

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