13 reduced-price homes are available

Units, including 3 townhouses, are to be awarded to qualified buyers this month and in Sept. and Oct.

August 10, 2008|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun reporter

Howard County residents will have a baker's dozen more reduced-price homes to buy through October, including a new variety - three townhouses reserved for adults 55 and older.

Until now, only rental apartments were offered to senior citizens under the county's Moderate Income Housing Unit program, which requires developers to include a small percentage of reduced-price homes among their market-rate units.

At the 22-home Jones Station development north of Guilford Road in Jessup, three 2,480-square-foot townhouses that typically sell for $380,000 will be priced at $241,663 to qualified senior citizens. The houses have two-car garages, a first-floor master bedroom suite, two second-floor bedrooms and a loft.

Typically, the county conducts a random drawing of prequalified applicants to determine buyers for the homes.

Two homes will be awarded to buyers next month and one in October, county housing officials said, though no exact dates have been selected.

An additional 10 units in three U.S. 1 developments - Elkridge Crossing, Village Towns and Belmont Station - are scheduled to be awarded to qualified buyers of any age this month, said Stacy Spann, county housing director.

"The intent is to provide affordability for the citizens of Howard County. It rounds out the availability of products for folks," Spann said.

Families are eligible for the homes if their incomes do not exceed $60,326 for two and up to $99,539 for a household of eight or more. Applications for people interested in the 10 family homes closed July 31. Those 10 units range in price from $182,769 for two-bedroom condominiums to $209,005 for a 1,691-square-foot garage townhouse. Five of those units are two-bedroom condominium apartments at Elkridge Crossing. The rest are townhouses - one at Elkridge Crossing, two at Belmont Station and two at Village Towns. No date has been set for the late August awarding of those homes.

"We're getting some interest" in the age-restricted homes, Spann said. Anyone interested in buying one has until Aug. 31 to apply.

"One reason to extend the period was to allow us to do some more advertising," said Thomas Carbo, Spann's deputy.

Age-restricted means at least one person buying the home must be 55 or older, and no one younger than 18 can live there permanently. The Jones Station homes have features to aid seniors, including handicapped-accessible entrances, level handle doors and first-floor bedroom suites. The two-level homes have no basements.

Terri Hansen, housing coordinator for the county's Office on Aging, said adding age-restricted housing to the county's offerings fulfills a need.

"It's always good to have opportunities," she said.

Sharonlee Vogel, chairwoman of the county's Commission on Aging, called the three units "a very good beginning. I'm delighted it's finally happening," she said.

"You could have your 85-year-old mother living with you and you're 65," she said, adding that some people may want to care for elderly parents themselves instead of placing them in assisted living or in a nursing home. "You need these different options."

The upstairs bedrooms could be used by visiting grandchildren, she said.

Not everyone is a fan of the idea, however.

State Sen. James N. Robey, a former county executive, thinks the MIHU program should be aimed at younger families with children.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a waste," he said. "That's an awful lot of square footage for older people whose children have probably moved on. It just doesn't make good sense to me."

Ted L. Meyerson, vice chairman of the Commission on Aging and president of United Seniors of Maryland, said he is critical of age-restricted housing in general.

In 15 to 20 years, he said, many "will end up wheelchair communities," which lack some features older adults might need, including bathroom "grab bars."

Hansen said the homes are required to be built so that such devices can be easily installed.

"If they've extended the offer date," Meyerson said, "it seems to indicate they don't have a lot of takers."

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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