A Carroll County group that provides housing for low-income and elderly people has run into a problem in its effort to help two families become homeowners.
The problem: Four of the six families who have applied to rent, then buy, two townhouses on Union Street in Westminster don't have enough income to cover the costs.
Two other applications are still being processed.
Meanwhile, Housing Ownership Purchase Effort Inc. (HOPE) is looking for additional applications, while cutting costs and income requirements in an effort to make the houses more affordable.
"We've had more lower-income people applying than moderate-income," said Karen K. Blandford, supervisor of city housing, personnel and community development. She has been working with a committee from HOPE's board of directors to select tenants.
"We don't want to set people up to fail," Ms. Blandford said. The committee wants to be sure applicants have adequate income to cover rent, utilities and payments into escrow accounts that will be used to accumulate down payments on the houses.
Ms. Blandford said the committee used federal money to pay part of its construction loan and refinanced the rest.
Committee members used the resulting gains to reduce the minimum qualifying income for tenants from $27,200 a year to $24,800 and to cut rent from $490 to $460 a month. The committee reduced the estimated monthly utilities cost from $120 to $90 after checking utility bills for other HOPE-owned townhouses.
The escrow payment remains $70 a month.
Maximum incomes for qualifying tenants under state grant regulations are $30,200 for a family of two, $37,750 for four and $43,800 for six.
The townhouses, at 53 and 55 Union St., were built for HOPE at cost by Masonry Contractors Inc. Each has three bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, a deck and a basement room that could be a family room or den.
The houses will sell for $70,000 each.
Applications are available at the city housing office in Winchester Exchange, 15 E. Main St., and at the HOPE office at 19 Union St.
Carolyn Kutilek, HOPE rental manager, will schedule tours for interested prospective residents.