Names chosen to buy housing

Single mother of two, family of five win drawing

Program repairs older homes

Helping make ownership affordable in the county

Ellicott City

April 14, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A single mother of two children and a family of five won the right yesterday to buy the first two renovated older homes offered under Howard County's moderate-income housing program.

The drawing took place in County Council chambers in Ellicott City, although none of the dozen contestants was there to witness the names plucked by county officials from among 12 envelopes in a gold-colored cylinder.

"I'm going to pray and thank God," Sarena Goodwin said after learning her name was chosen to buy one of the $132,000, three-bedrooms homes in the 8400 block Frederick Road in Ellicott City's historic district.

She had not told her sons, ages 12 and 19, that she had entered the drawing, she said, because during her yearlong search for an affordable house, "every time I would tell them, things would fall through."

Haresh Pancholi works two jobs and his wife, Bharti, also works, he said. But the family of five had also been unable to find a house they could buy -- until now. Originally from India, the Columbia family has lived in the United States for six years, he said.

"This time, I'm so very happy," Haresh Pancholi said, noting that he tried to win a chance to buy a new, moderately priced townhouse in the county's first drawing last year. His two oldest children, Pranav, 20, and Rachna, 18, attend Howard Community College, and his 16-year-old, Deepika, goes to Long Reach High.

Disappointed -- again -- was Glenelg High graduate Kelly Casper, 27, a six-year teacher at Bollman Bridge Elementary School who had also tried for one of the new townhouses last year. She arrived just as the drawing ended.

"I've been trying to buy, but I get beat out every time," she said. Just last week, she bid $165,000 on a two-bedroom Columbia condominium apartment despite an asking price of $155,000, only to lose to a higher bidder.

County budget officials said the average home price in Howard was $214,850 when County Executive James N. Robey took office in December 1998. By last month, that average price was $339,202, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

The 100-year-old Frederick Road duplex represents the county's first attempt at including renovated older houses in its moderate-income housing program.

Under the bill approved by the County Council in December, a contractor who spends at least $50,000 renovating an older home can qualify for a certificate declaring the residence a moderate-income unit. The contractor may sell the home through the county at a reduced price and then sell the certificate to another builder.

The law allows builders of new homes to substitute older, renovated units for up to 20 percent of the moderate-income units they are required to build. County law already required 10 percent of new homes in large, mixed-use developments be priced at about $140,000 for moderate-income buyers.

County housing officials plan to choose buyers this spring for eight new townhouses with garages that retail for more than $350,000 each in the Cherrytree Park development, which is off Route 216.

The theory -- according to Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon and east Columbia Democrat David A. Rakes, co-sponsors of the County Council home-renovation bill approved in December -- is that older neighborhoods benefit from the incentive to improve blighted housing. The two council members picked the two winning names.

Jared Spahn, the builder who renovated the two homes, said he will donate $250 in the name of each lottery winner to Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit group that works to build affordable houses.

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