Affordable home for the holidays

November 30, 2008|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Larry.carson@baltsun.com

A social worker, a research biologist and a kindergarten teacher are excited about spending the holiday season preparing to buy a new home, thanks to a county program that put new homes within the reach of moderate-income residents.

They were among eight people awarded the right to buy a new condominium apartment or townhouse at a reduced price under the Moderate Income Housing Unit program at a drawing Tuesday at the county's Gateway Building. Under the program, developers building in several county zones must include a small percentage of units at below-market prices. Most of the homes awarded lately have been at projects in the U.S. 1 corridor.

"I can't believe it," said Felicite Neal, 33, of Riverdale in Prince George's County, as she sat holding her 7-month-old daughter at the drawing.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Howard County section on Sunday included the incorrect number of sponsors of a County Council bill on moderate-income housing. The measure has three sponsors, including primary sponsor Calvin Ball. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

The social worker and single mother of three children won the right to buy a townhouse in Ryan Homes' Belmont Station for $202,246. So did Rahman and Maynuer Abullimiti, who said they live with their 16-year-old daughter in an Ellicott City apartment.

Six families wanted Belmont Station homes, but only two were available, along with five Village Towns townhouses and three two-bedroom apartments at Elkridge Crossing that sell for $180,651 each. The townhouses have not been built.

Rebecca Allwang, 26, a kindergarten teacher at Bryant Woods Elementary, said she grew up in Howard County and lives with her parents. She was greeted with applause upon entering the room, just after her name was chosen to get first pick of the three apartment condos available.

"I've been looking at buying, but [have had no success] with the market the way it is," she said as she tried to calm down. Her price under the program is about $60,000 less than retail, while the Belmont Station homes are $102,000 less than retail.

Rahman Abullimiti, 45, a research biologist originally from China, said his family was attracted to the large rooms, convenient location, and the big community center and swimming pool at Belmont Station. The community is off U.S. 1, near Route 100. Village Towns, another Ryan project, is farther south along U.S. 1, while Elkridge Crossing is off Montgomery Road in Elkridge.

Thomas Carbo, deputy county housing director, said buyers are prequalified by the county before the drawings, and other buyers have not had trouble getting mortgage financing from Columbia Bank and Bank of America. Income limits mean a family of four can earn no more than $75,408.

Meanwhile, three detached homes for senior citizens on Mary Lane off Guilford Road have gone begging, Carbo said, so the county is prepared to let them be sold at retail prices and recoup the difference for use in other projects.

The program would get another boost from a county council bill scheduled for introduction at tomorrow's meeting.

Three council Democrats have joined prime sponsor Calvin Ball to exempt moderate-income units from the county's allocation system of growth controls, giving developments that include affordable housing a better chance to proceed.

The county allows a certain number of new homes in each area of the county each year. A builder must obtain allocations and then win approval under the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that delays projects where schools are overcrowded or nearby intersections are congested. The bill does not exempt MIHU homes from the ordinance.

"What we really wanted to do is offer more opportunity for work-force and affordable housing," Ball said.

Grace Kubofcik, co-president of the League of Women Voters, said her group worked with Ball on the bill. She said that if the county requires developers to include moderate-income units, it should not then force them to wait for allocations.

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