D.C. lottery applicants must be first-time homeowners, at least 18 and promise to correct all housing code violations within a year and to live in the property for five years. They must submit income verification to show they have $250 and can afford renovations. Renovation costs vary widely; it is estimated that this year's batch will range from $30,000 to $220,000.

Low- and moderate-income residents may qualify for a $10,000 interest-free city loan and low-interest financing through the D.C. Housing Finance Agency, Federal Housing Administration and lenders authorized by HUD to offer rehabilitation loans generally referred to as 203(k) loans.

About 100 units of housing, most of which are apartments in multi-family buildings, have been raffled off yearly and applicants number in the hundreds.

This year's event topped the charts for several reasons. Usually the prizes are distressed houses lost to taxes or occasionally foreclosed on by city housing finance programs. This year's batch was primarily single-family houses released after a decade by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some are in highly desirable areas, but were gutted during the 1968 riots and were rebuilt as public housing. The houses deteriorated again in the 1970s and 1980s. Some boarded-up shells in Columbia Heights abut houses that sell for $300,000 or more.

This year's event also was the first open to nonresidents.

For those who now are tempted, French said about 70 more HUD houses will be auctioned off this winter. The list of properties will be advertised in newspapers for a month.

If you don't win the winter lottery either, she said, there's always the city's Home Purchase Assistance Program, which helps pay down mortgages, and the city Housing Finance Agency's low-interest loans.