Reduced-price townhouses awarded to buyers

March 14, 2010|By Larry Carson

The last four reduced-price townhouses at sought-after Belmont Station in Elkridge were awarded to buyers last week, as county housing officials said the Moderate Income Housing Unit program begins evolving to offer more rental properties in the future.

"As the market changes, we're adapting too," said Tom Carbo, deputy county housing director, who oversaw the drawing of names, including four in Belmont Station and two in the Village Towns development.

Five other available Village Towns homes will wait for a later drawing because not enough qualified buyers were ready to make a purchase, officials said.

Carbo said prices for existing homes are still dropping, and some might sell for the middle-income program prices, but there are fewer of them on the market, continuing to make them difficult for working families with limited but not low incomes to afford without help.

Jan Li, 48, and his wife and college-age child got a home in Belmont Station and were very pleased, he said. The native of China said he'd lived in the county since 2002, and thought about buying a house about 2005, but held back as prices skyrocketed and the manufacturing plant where he worked closed, forcing him into a lower-paying retail job. The family now rents in Columbia.

He said he was less impressed with the specific house he's buying than with Howard County. "It's the county I like," he said. "Actually, I'd rather buy in Ellicott City, but it's too expensive there."

Two other families with children came to the drawing, which was to decide who got first crack at the available home lots. Carbo said the new homes should be finished by June 30, so some buyers can qualify for a federal tax credit.

County housing officials awarded the right to buy four Belmont Station town houses and two Village Towns units, both in Ryan Homes developments along U.S. 1 in Elkridge. The 1,690-square-foot, threebedroom Belmont Station homes have been popular with program participants because the community has a swimming pool and community recreation center, and some of the homes boast stone fronts.

Monthly payments range up to $1,752. Prices range from $223,390 to $228,390 for the stone-front Belmont Station garage homes that normally sell for about $310,000, and $218,633 for the Village Towns units, also with garages, that go for more than $270,000.

Although a few existing townhouses in Columbia are now selling in that price range, the Moderate Income Housing Unit program also offers state-funded loans for closing costs.

Since the settlement program began last fall, 14 buyers have received a combined total of $170,136 through March 5, officials said. The county received 26 new MIHU applications during the latest open enrollment period in January, officials said.

County law requires builders working in 11 different zones to include a percentage of homes for sale at lower-than-retail prices for working families. Maximum incomes for eligibility range from $57,422 for one person to $108,282 for a family of eight or more. A family of four can earn up to $82,032.

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