An Architectural Drawing;

Lottery opens door to affordable homes




Just minutes before the lottery began Friday night, Frances Granahan squeezed into a packed Huntington Town Hall and joined hundreds of people hoping to trump an oppressive real estate market by getting their name called.


The Dix Hills mother stood in place of her son, Matthew, one of 700 people who applied to buy a home at the Highview at Huntington, a new development in Huntington Station with 100 units of affordable housing.


When his name was called just after 6 p.m., the 24-year-old police academy recruit was patrolling a street in Brooklyn and had no idea he was the first winner.


But like a thoroughbred, his mother bolted toward the podium to claim her son's prize.

"That's my son!" she shrieked. "He's about to get married. He's graduating from the academy in May. Now he's got a house of his own!"


Delirious with excitement, she forked over a $250 retainer check and set a date for Matthew to apply for a mortgage. Then she took an offering book describing the complex and rushed home to wait for her son.


If only buying a home in Huntington were always so effortless.


Low-and modest-income families have historically struggled to find housing in the area, in part because several recent housing proposals have been designed mostly for one-bedroom units instead of family-friendly two- and three-bedroom units.


Other low-income housing proposals, such as Matinecock Court in Northport, have met with stiff resistance from civic groups fearful that surrounding property values will suffer. Twenty years after it was first introduced, construction on the site has yet to begin.


"Huntington does not have the best record in the past with housing," said Jim Morgo, president of the Long Island Housing Partnership, which assisted with Friday's lottery. "This is a big step in the right direction."


Compared to most homes in Huntington, which average $400,000 on the open market (homes in Huntington Station average $200,000),the Highview is a considerable bargain.


Its two-bedroom range-style units, built by the Klar Organization of East Meadow, will be sold for $126,100. Its three-bedroom duplexes will be sold at $143,800. All of the units, which are gray and have dark green doors and window shutters, come with a single-car garage, and the owner's choice of rugs, bathroom and kitchen tile.


"You're not buying something that's 40 or 50 years old, someone else's mess," said Amanda Ewiss of Northport who sat with her 17-month-old daughter, Trudy, but did not win a home.

Fifty-one of the units come with a $25,000 subsidy from the New York State Affordable Housing Cooperation for first-time home owners, such as Matthew Granahan, who earn 80 percent of the county's median income.


"I never thought I would get so lucky so soon," Granahan said yesterday. Granahan, like all those named Friday, must still qualify for a mortgage. Should he be approved, he will have a week to sign a contract, then move into his new home when construction is complete this summer.


"These are people who would never be able to buy a home," said Morgo, adding that over a period of six years, home owners accrue a net worth that is nine times greater than people of the same economic strata who rent.


But for every winner Friday there were six losers. Bernard Gilbert and his wife, Loreen, of Amityville, said they felt lucky going into the lottery. But as the hours wore on and their names weren't called, they slumped against a wall and finally put on their jackets to leave, no better off than when they came.


"Finding a home here is never easy," Bernard Gilbert said, "that's just the bottom line."


Copyright 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.