Winning a chance to buy

Residents chosen to purchase homes at reduced prices

May 30, 2008|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun reporter

Leslie Spencer and Jennie Moser, both 26, were too busy with their teaching duties to attend the Howard County housing event that awarded each the right to buy a new, discounted two-bedroom condominium in Elkridge, but their parents stepped in for them.

"This was perfect, especially with the gas prices," said Carolyn Spencer, Leslie's mother, at the county housing department ceremony Wednesday afternoon. The young teacher lives in Ellicott City with her parents. She wanted to buy a place of her own, "but on a teacher's salary, she didn't think it was affordable," her mother said.

"I feel very excited," Leslie Spencer, a teacher at Veterans Elementary in Ellicott City, said yesterday. "Since I work in Howard County, it's nice to be able to live here as well."

Moser teaches at Columbia's Wilde Lake High. Her mother, Melissa Moser, said her daughter rents a place in Ellicott City but wants to buy in the county, where she grew up and works.

"It's a real opportunity for those who work the hardest for our county but can't afford to live in the county," Melissa Moser said.

Crystal Chandler, 23, a teacher at Atholton High who also coaches junior varsity girls lacrosse there, made it to the Gateway building Wednesday and received the right to buy a $182,796 condominium at Elkridge Crossing off Montgomery Road that normally sells for more than $250,000.

"I think it's a great opportunity," Chandler said, despite the financial stress of managing her school loans and a $1,450 a month condo payment.

Five condominiums and four town houses - all in three separate Ryan Home developments along U.S. 1 - were awarded to buyers under the county's Moderate Income Housing Unit program at the drawing. There were no buyers for three Elkridge Crossing town houses, which will be available at the next round of moderate home awards scheduled for August, county housing officials said.

There were 11 qualified buyers for the dozen units, but two chosen for Elkridge Crossing chose to wait for future selections. County law requires builders in some zones to provide a small percentage of new homes at lower prices to enable civil servants and other middle-income working families to buy them. If they later want to sell and move on, buyers must sell the units back to the county Housing Commission at a controlled price.

High home prices since 2001 have made it hard for county officials to find enough qualified, income limited buyers who can afford the new units.

"Even if you find somebody in that range, people today are overextended" with debts, said Thomas Carbo, deputy county housing director who ran the MIHU event. He said the county is considering a pilot financing program that could reduce the financial burden somewhat, but no details are yet available.

Right now, MIHU buyers can get a 1,400- to 1,700-square-foot condominium apartment or town house for between $70,000 to $140,000 below retail prices, which range from the $250,000's to around $350,000, depending on the unit.

The two Belmont Station town houses seemed the most popular, with six families vying for them. Those units cost MIHU buyers $209,005 each. They're set in a community just north of Route 100 that features attractive stone-front homes, a community center and a swimming pool.

Carbo directed the drawing, using the county's gold-colored, hand-turned cylinder to choose which applicants got the selected units.

Carles Hughes Jr., 37, a machinist who works in Elkridge but lives with his fianc?e and their two children in a northwest Baltimore rental, sat with his family and his mother, Carlitta Coates, 58, of Odenton, in the front row, hoping for a Belmont Station home.

He and Tanya Hill, 32, a radiology billing clerk, were awarded the right to buy a three-bedroom, 2.5 bath Village Towns town house for $200,359 instead. Village Towns is west of U.S. 1 off Port Capitol Drive, in Elkridge.

Hughes was eager to move in before school starts in August for his children Carles III, 5, and Deasia, 12, but was told the new house won't be ready until late in the fall.

"It's better out here. I heard the schools are better," Hughes said, and the family often visits The Mall in Columbia and Howard's restaurants, he added.

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