It was almost like a high school graduation. One by one, as their names were called, they rose from their chairs with big grins, marched to the front of the small office in South Arlington and accepted congratulations before an often-cheering audience.
"Wilton Williams," a well-dressed woman slowly announced, holding a small scrap of paper she had just drawn froma silver bowl.
"Ooh, that's me," came a shout from the second row as a woman leaped from her chair when she heard her husband's name, rushed to the front and began shaking hands with the woman and a man holding the bowl.
Jackie Williams, 28, was one of the lucky ones Saturday, winning the 20th and final spot among 74 moderate-income persons vying for the chance to buy a house in Washington's close-in suburbs at a bargain price. Her selection should give her and her husband an opportunity to purchase one of 14 townhouses or four renovated homes at prices and terms rarely seen these days in Arlington, or in many parts of Northern Virginia.
The townhouses will sell for $60,000 to $80,000 each on land donated by the county, and the renovated two- and three-bedroom homes will be offered for about $60,000 each.
But what makes the deal especially attractive to Williams and others are the terms being offered by the nonprofit Arlington Housing Corp. The purchases will be financed for 30 years at 9.35 percent interest, for only a $2,000 down payment and a closing fee.
The housing corporation, which is using federal funds to provide the bargain housing, joined with the Nauck Civic Association to hold the lottery, which was the beginning of a dream for many of the 60 persons who gathered at Arlington's Memorial YMCA on 22nd Street.
"We want something that we can own and this will be ours," said Williams, a lifelong resident of the Nauck neighborhood. "We're going to put in for one of those townhouses. I grew up here. All my family is here and I don't want to leave."
Williams, a staff assistant at the Pentagon, and her husband Wilton, a dump truck driver, earn about $25,000 a year. That's not enough to qualify for a conventional home loan "with all these high interest rates," she says.
About 90 people had applied along with the Williamses, for the new Arlington homes, "but not everyone qualified," according to Steven Smith, financial administrator for the housing corporation. The 74 applicants, from whom Sturday's winners were picked, qualified on the basis of their incomes. For example, had the Williamses' combined incomes exceeded $25,500 -- about $500 more than they are making, they would have been disqualified. Twenty names were picked with the expectation that some of the lottery winners may drop out of the bidding.
Smith said the project will not only aid moderate-income persons, but will also "benefit the neighborhood," which is near Shirley Highway and the Army-Navy Country Club.