As Howard County works to keep its housing stock affordable for people across the economic spectrum, local officials hope the annual housing fair scheduled for next week will help give people a better understanding of what the wealthy county has to offer.

The fair will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at Long Reach High School and feature more than 40 real estate agents, mortgage lenders and housing specialists to answer questions and provide information.

"Basically, anyone that is interested at all in buying a home, renting a home, improving a home" should attend, said Tom Carbo, the county's housing director. "You will find a multitude of resources at these fairs — you name it, they are going to be there."

Carbo said the first-time home buyer workshops are the most well-attended, while many people are interested in renovating their homes, especially now that remodeling can be more appealing then trying to sell and move in a sluggish market.

The event will also provided narrated bus tours of neighborhoods for newcomers to the county.

The average sale price in Howard is $385,000 and the median household income is more than $100,000, so attracting all levels of household incomes can be difficult. But Carbo said the fair is a good way to inform newcomers and residents of county home-buying programs.

Carbo's department also faces declines in state and federal funding. This month, the County Council must approve an annual housing plan, which will then be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to receive funding.

Carbo said funding will be $200,000 less compared to the previous year, and the plan will focus more on housing opportunities, while past years have also addressed economic development.

"We're trying to focus on housing in particular," he said.

The fair will provide an opportunity to showcase county properties, including the recently redeveloped Monarch Mills, where more than 80 percent of the market rate and low-income units have been leased out.

The county will also hold a lottery drawing at the fair for the chance to buy two county-owned homes at reduced rates, including a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse on Abbey Road in Elkridge listed at $209,813.

The other home, on Whiskey Run in Laurel, is a renovated, two-bedroom, two-bath townhouse with a list price of $140,000. It was paid for using grants intended to help neighborhoods that have been high foreclosure rates.

The Abbey Road home is part of the county's Moderate Income Housing Unit program, which requires builders to offer 10 percent to 15 percent of their new units at lesser rates.

Applicants must apply to prequalify in order to enter the house lottery. Applications should be submitted online by 5 p.m. Wednesday at howardcountyhousing.com, or by visiting the housing office at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive. Income, assets, credit history and household size determine eligibility.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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