After 18 months of waiting, Howard County housing officials are ready to award 26 homes at sharply discounted prices to prequalified buyers at three lottery drawings next month.
All but one of the units will be new homes included in the county's Moderate Income Housing Unit program, which requires builders of mixed-use projects to include 10 percent at lower prices.
A 3,000-square-foot detached, fully renovated home will be awarded at a drawing June 2 at Oakland Mills High school, where the county is holding a "Come Home to Howard County" housing fair.
The home -- at 9518 Pamplona Road near Oakland Mills Middle School -- was appraised at $475,000, but a buyer will get 42 percent partial ownership and occupancy rights for $200,000. The county Housing Commission spent $400,000 to buy and renovate the house and will retain majority ownership, officials said.
Two 1,400-square-foot townhouses, with garages, appraised at $432,000 each, will go for $140,000 to buyers selected by lottery at 10 a.m. June 6 in the County Council chambers in the George Howard Building. The townhouses are the last moderate-income units at Cherrytree Park, off Route 216, east of U.S. 29.
The Housing Commission will own about two-thirds of each house.
The deadline for applications for all three houses is Tuesday, but the list will reopen to new applicants July 1.
County civil servants will get preference in the lotteries.
Prices have not been set for the other 23 units, which have yet to be built, though they are likely to cost more than $140,000, officials said. Today is the deadline for applying for this lottery, which is scheduled for June 8.
The dwellings include 13 garage townhouses, each 1,596 square feet, at Shipley's Grant, a new project at Route 100 and Snowden River Parkway, and 10 two-bedroom condominium apartments at Elkridge Crossing on U.S. 1 on the site of an old drive-in movie theater.
Stacy Spann, county housing director, said the 26 units are the first of a stream of about 1,000 moderate-income homes set to emerge from the county's long development process over the next five years.
"There are a number of units poised and ready to come out of the pipeline," Spann said. "Obviously, it's very good that we've got units that have great amenities coming out of the pipeline. That bodes well for the county."
Spann and Tom Carbo, his deputy, have been working on creation of a permanent list of prequalified buyers so that whenever more homes near completion, they don't have to restart the lottery qualification process.
"We want to get as many people as possible to apply," Carbo said.
To qualify, applicants must have annual incomes of less than $51,063 for one person, $58,358 for two and up to $96,290 for a family of eight or larger.
Spann and Carbo said they want to reverse the county's recent emphasis on producing rental housing as a way of coping with sharply higher home prices.
"We're using this as a for-sale opportunity," Spann said. "In the past, that was not the practice. We really believe it should be for sale."
Several advocates for affordable housing praised the return to selling rather than renting houses under the program.
"It's great to see this happening and available to the public," said Andre J. DeVerneil, a member of the Interfaith Council for Affordable Housing. "I think there's a renewed energy."
William A. Ross, a member of the county commission, said, "I'm a strong proponent of home ownership rather than rental."
Income levels in the county's moderate-income housing program mean that purchase is a better option, he said.
"I'm happy to see a program developed that will provide folks homeownership opportunities," Ross said.
But Ross also is a strong advocate for housing that low-income people can afford.
"What we've got to do is look at all income levels," he said.
The units being prepared for sale under the moderate-income program should come back on the market whenever their occupants decide to sell or move on, officials said.
The county Housing Commission has the first right to repurchase their 32.4 percent share of each of the homes.
Anyone interested in applying can call 410-313-6318, or go to www.comehometohowardcounty. org.