Lois Ross is out of luck, and just about out of time.

"I want something to call my own," said the 55-year-old grandmother. "I want a house. I feel like I am marching with Dr. {Martin Luther} King. This is my dream, to own a house."

She cannot find a house in the District she can afford -- at most, $49,500. The D.C. government's commitment to help her finance a home expires Sunday, and her landlord is selling the house she rents now.

"Everything in my price range needs repair," she said. "There is nothing."

Don Denton, president-elect of the Washington D.C. Association of Realtors, said the economics of city housing works against Ross.

"She will have a real problem finding something in her price range," he said. "In this city, in any city, land is scarce and that means higher prices. She may have to go to the suburbs to find what she is looking for at her price."

Ross earns $10,000 a year as a presser in an Adams-Morgan dry cleaning shop.

Two years ago, when she decided to buy a house, she was told to pay off her furniture loan and to save at least $500 in order to qualify for low-income assistance from the city's Home Purchase Assistance Program.

She said she squeezed $10 to $15 from her salary each week and put it in her savings account. She is proud of her credit record and the $2,000 she has saved.

The city figured Ross could afford a house costing no more than $49,500. She is eligible for a second mortage loan of up to $25,000 to cover her down payment and closing costs.

But in Washington, where the median single-family house price is $183,000, there are few if any houses that both meet the city code, a requirement of the program, and are under her modest price ceiling.

Ross spends her weekends and most evenings looking at houses she finds listed in the newspaper and following up on tips from real estate agents.

Recently she took a bus and then walked about a mile to see a house on Benning Road NE, a semi-detached frame house that was fire-damaged.

"I burst into tears," she said. "It was such a terrible house. It was falling down."

Once she placed an ad in a newspaper saying she was looking for a house. Only a woman who thought Ross was selling a house responded.

Ross said Audry Brown is one of the few realty agents who has been willing to drive her around.

"Houses in that price range are almost non-existent," Brown said. "There were a few places that we looked at but they all needed lots of work."

Ross said the birth of her two grandchildren, 4-year-old Shanee Coleman and Davon Coleman, 3, made her realize the importance of having permanent housing for them and her 22-year-old daughter, Towanda Coleman. They all live with her in a small house near Hechinger Mall.

"After the grands came, I saw things in a different light," she said. "I am thinking about their future. If I ever get to retire, I can sit back and say this is mine and nobody can take it from me. They will always have a home."

Towanda Coleman said she isn't working because she doesn't think she could earn enough money to make it worthwhile, given the cost of child care.

Coleman said she hopes to find work in about a year when her youngest child is ready to start school.

Ross got an extension on the 90-day time limit that the housing program gives all qualified applicants. Her additional 30 days run out Sunday.

Program Director Robert K. Jenkins Jr. said Ross's situation is difficult, but not impossible.

"There are properties available in that price range, mostly through the nonprofit groups who develop affordable property," Jenkins said.

The housing program has helped 4,000 residents buy homes since the program started, most of them $55,000 to $75,000, he said.

Jenkins said he had referred Ross to several nonprofit developers, but Ross said she was told they had nothing available.

The housing program itself is in financial trouble and last week imposed a moratorium on new applications.

Ross said she will continue her search right up to the deadline.

"I won't give up," she said. "I can't give up."