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Lottery Prize Is 30-Year Mortgage : La Mirada Conducts Drawing for 45 New Condos That First-Time Buyers Otherwise Couldn't Afford


For the winners in Tuesday morning's lottery, there were no instant millions, just a crack at a 30-year mortgage, a chance at the ever-more-elusive dream of home ownership in Southern California.

Up for grabs were 45 brand-new condominiums, which La Mirada will purchase at market value. The city will resell them at a discount to people who could not otherwise afford the one- and two-bedroom units.

Tuesday's drawing at the La Mirada Civic Theatre was held to establish the order in which applicants will become eligible to buy these subsidized condos. Although all entrants will be notified by telephone or mail, more than 100 nervous renters could not wait, including 33-year-old Antoinette Uraine.

Although she works for Bank of America, the divorced mother of three said she can't save enough for a down payment after rent, food and child-care costs.

"This could be a great opportunity, a nice start for my family," she said. "I've been renting a long time, since I left my parents' house when I was 18.

"I almost didn't come here today, then I thought, no, this is too exciting."

Sitting near her, Lisa Parish, 28, promised to scream if she got a low number. In the meantime, she and her 3-year-old daughter were trying to calm 4-month-old Bryan. Her husband is a pastor, which she figured could only help her lottery chances.

Truck driver John Temple, 23, kept a lower profile after slipping in 20 minutes late and missing the first 30 picks.

The last time John Wohrman set foot in the theater was three years ago when he saw "Little Shop of Horrors." Condo or no condo, the 22-year-old painter will be married Saturday. He had already scouted the units in The Glen, which are part of a 150-acre development with permits for 282 condominiums and 548 homes. "They're great, brand-new, beautiful," he said, "in the middle of everything."

But outside his price range.

The Glen's most affordable one-bedroom unit costs about $118,000. Although a bargain compared to prices in other parts of the county, the units remain beyond the reach of many working families, said Dick Austin, an assistant vice president with Imco Realty Services, the Santa Rosa-based mortgage company arranging the financing for La Mirada. Austin estimated that, on the open market, a typical buyer might have to:

* Raise about $6,500 in cash to cover the down payment and closing costs.

* Pay upward of about $1,000 a month in a typical 30-year loan.

* Earn more than $50,000 a year (not taking previous debts into account).

Under the city program, income as little as $15,000 a year for individuals or $20,000 for families could suffice, said Don White, La Mirada's director of economic development. An applicant with crippling debts might fail to qualify for a mortgage, but many low- and moderate-income households would.

The interest on these loans will be fixed at 8.15%. Buyers will have monthly payments that are no greater than a quarter of their income.

Within the last year, the city council approved two separate bond issues to make the condominiums affordable. The first issue provided $2.55 million to lower the condos' purchase price. The second created a $4.1-million fund that will finance the mortgages at the bargain interest rate.

The project costs local taxpayers nothing directly. Property tax revenue from new residential development will pay off the first debt. The condo buyers' mortgage payments will retire the other bond issue, which is also federally guaranteed.

Only first-time property owners and La Mirada residents were eligible. The city approved 285 entrants for the lottery from a list of 700.

These home buyers will not move into old, marginally renovated or cheaply constructed, subsidized housing. The condominiums, off Beach Boulevard south of Imperial Highway, are priced for upper middle-class wage earners.

In all, "the lender benefits, the investors buying the bonds will benefit, and homeowners are benefiting, because it's not putting them in a financial bind," Austin said.

The only obvious losers are the applicants buried at the bottom of the waiting list.

In the auditorium, on the stage, atop a table, rested a gold-colored, translucent cylinder. The scene had a surreal game-show quality to it, with what would pass for a dapper, gray-suited host assisted by three attractive young women. The "host" was Andrew Lazzaretto, a redevelopment consultant, who read off the names as they were drawn from the cylinder. The women included a city auditor and Dana Tweedy, Lazzaretto's colleague who will administer the program.

As for the audience, it was strangely silent. A few people sipped coffee, others clasped their hands in what looked like prayer.

Lazzaretto and Tweedy divided the lottery into two parts: the first to create a waiting list for one-bedroom units, the second for the two-bedroom condos. As the drawing proceeded, the best numbers went to absentees, dulling any anticipated celebrations.

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