In October, Lois Ross, who makes $10,000 a year working in a dry-cleaning shop, was up against a city deadline for finding a house that could meet the city housing codes and cost $49,500 or less.

Ross, 55, got an extension from the Home Purchase Assistance Program, which helps low-income buyers, after a newspaper story told of her determined search for a home for herself, her daughter and two grandchildren.

Now she has been able to broaden her search somewhat. In a city where the median single-family house costs $183,000, she has permission to buy a house costing as much as $68,000.

Robert K. Jenkins Jr., director of the corporation that administers the housing assistance program, said she was approved for the higher amount because of new, more generous first trust mortgage loans and a drop in interest rates. He said the city is also willing to increase the down payment it will make for Ross, because she faces eviction when the house she rents is sold.

Ross continues to look at houses every weekend and after work. Most need extensive repair, she said.

Real estate broker Sheala Tyson, who decided to help after reading of Ross's plight, drives her to look at houses.

Tyson said Ross is different from most who qualify for the city's housing assistance program. "She is low-income, but she managed to save money toward her house," she said. "We don't see many people like her."

Ross has saved more than $2,000 in the last two years by putting aside a small amount each week. She remains committed to having a home for her family.

"I feel like I have crossed the bridge halfway and I can see the other side," she said last week.