Half-price houses for winners of drawing

Howard helping those with moderate incomes

October 03, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Nearly blind from diabetes and with only one good arm, Bharat Pandya, 51, his wife, Nita, and their two children came to Howard County from India knowing the odds against having a better life were long -- but last night those odds changed.

The Pandya family was one of nine winners out of 121 entrants in a moderate-income housing lottery that will enable them to buy a new, luxury townhouse in the Cherrytree Park development for less than half the $240,000 market price.

"We tried our luck. We wanted to stay in Howard County," Bharat said, standing with his daughter Mitali after the televised drawing in the County Council's renovated chamber in Ellicott City.

The Pandyas, now supported by Mitali's earnings at an Anne Arundel County Wal-Mart, and his wife's salary from her bank job, came from their home near Bombay two years ago because of Bharat's illness to be near family in Laurel.

"I wish we could have pulled every envelope out and given a house to buy to every one of you," County Executive James N. Robey said after the nine winners and nine alternates were chosen.

The county will conduct another drawing next year for eight more homes in the Cherrytree Park development, he said. County officials said they might limit the drawing to families with children.

About 10 contestants attended the drawing. Others learned of the outcome later.

"Oh, wow, I won," said Nikia Thomas of Columbia upon hearing from a reporter that she had won.

Thomas, who is single and in her 20s, said she expects to have a family someday and wants a house she can afford.

Aaron Fisher, 25, of Jessup, a music teacher in Prince George's County, said he had almost given up finding a house he could afford.

The winners were selected by numbers in envelopes drawn by Robey and other officials. County government television broadcast the 20-minute ceremony live.

Applicants were required to have incomes between $35,600 and $53,120, and winners need $3,056 in cash for closing costs.

Lottery winners may buy the new townhouses for $118,700. The county is adding $21,300 as a second mortgage to cover the rest of the new homes' $140,000 construction cost.

The 2,160-square-foot, brick-front homes have one- or two-car garages. Eight more homes will be awarded to buyers next year, when the 170-home development is further along. Construction of the first houses is scheduled to begin next month.

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