Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Making Homeownership Attainable

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 @ 11:59 AM
Homeownership_Conference.jpgElliot Schmiedl of MHP talks about his agency's ONE Mortgage Program that makes homeownership more attainable for those in Massachusetts. 

When it comes to housing on Cape Cod, it’s not just about affordability. It’s also about attainability.

That concept took center stage during the Cape Cod and Islands Homeownership Collaborative held at HAC last month. Featuring representatives from HAC, MassHousing, Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) and the United States Department of Agriculture, the workshop allowed local lenders to learn about the mortgage programs available to residents to ensure housing is both affordable and attainable.

The session began with HAC’s Karin Bar highlighting changes to Barnstable County’s HOME Program which she administers for the agency. Available to those that make 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Barnstable County, the program provides closing cost and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers. That assistance has increased from a maximum of $10,000 to $20,000 awarded to recipients based on need that comes in the form of a zero payment, zero interest loan that is paid back upon sale of the property.
“I’ve had the pleasure of helping 22 households since I took over the program a couple of years ago,” Bar told those in attendance. “This is a great program and I’m very excited about it. And I’m very happy we’re all here today so we can make homeownership more attainable.”

Over a two-hour period, lenders had a chance to learn about MassHousing’s lending opportunities. “We are no longer just a lender for first-time homebuyers, but a lender for repeat buyers for someone who may have owned in the past and is looking to own again,” said MassHousing business development officer Maureen Moriarty. “With Massachusetts being a high cost area, we see a lot of people struggle to get into a second home.”

Keeping People in Their Homes
Moriarty was joined by her colleague Goretti Joaquim who provided information on her agency’s mortgage insurance program known as MI Plus which provides up to $2,000 per month that goes to cover mortgage payments for borrowers who may have lost their job. Since 2004, she said MI Plus has assisted nearly 1,000 such people, keeping over 850 of them in their homes. “Our mission is to keep people in their homes and people intact which is huge,” she said.

Homeownership_Conference_2.jpgMassHousing's Goretti Joaquim talks to local lenders abou her agency's mortgage insurance program.

At MHP, the ONE Mortgage Program has provided 19,000 loans to income-eligible residents in Massachusetts since 1991. The program, which is only open to first-time homebuyers, reduces the down payment required to purchase a home while providing the borrower with a fixed interest rate over 30 years. Some borrowers may even qualify for a one-time subsidy spread out over the first seven years of owning their home.

MHP’s Elliot Schmiedl said loans his agency provides can reduce a monthly income payment by nearly $450 for a low-income borrower and just over $300 for a moderate-income borrower, making homeownership that much more of a possibility. “It is so difficult for low to moderate income borrowers to even get into the market,” he said. “Not much is affordable anymore.”

The workshop ended with USDA’s Michael Rendulic who highlighted his department’s services which includes financing roughly $21 billion in housing projects throughout the country. Of that, he said $223 million went to rural areas of Massachusetts which includes every town on Cape Cod except the town of Barnstable.

The USDA’s housing programs include rental assistance for elderly and low-income residents; direct loans; and funding repairs for income-eligible homeowners.

To learn more about Barnstable County's HOME Program contact HAC's Karin Bar at kbar@haconcapecod.org or at 508-771-5400, ext. 289. 

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, affordable housing, homeownership, MassHousing, Karin Bar, Barnstable County HOME Program, Massachusetts Housing Partnership

Jazz Ensemble to Perform for DYECH Fundraiser

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 27, 2016 @ 10:30 AM


For more than 15 years, the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH) has organized a free concert twice a year, all in an effort to support those in need. 

DYECH will do so once again tomorrow (Tuesday, June 28) at 7:30 pm when the Cape Cod Conservatory Jazz Ensemble performs at the St. Pius X Life Center in South Yarmouth. It's an event that demonstrates the power of music in opening up people's hearts, helping to raise funds for HAC's Project Prevention program which ensures residents struggling with their bills are able to remain in their homes and off the streets. 

"We usually raise about $1,000 a concert," said DYECH's Steve Sozanski. That money is raised through a free-will offering. 

Sozanski said the concert is always well-attended, giving residents and tourists alike the opportunity to listen to "music you won't hear on the radio. It is the old classic music that makes you tap your toes like Benny Goodman and Count Basie. It is really good and the people who attend it really love it. Sometimes people will even break out into dancing on the floor." 

Tags: DYECH, Project Prevention, homeless prevention, Cape Cod Conservatory Band

HAC's Quahog Challenge Returns for Second Year

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 @ 11:34 AM
Quahog_Winners_15.jpgLast year's winners of the Cape Cod Quahog Challenge, Susan Buckley and Nathan Nickerson of Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar, will be returning to defend their title. 

On Route 6 in Eastham, there’s a large poster of chef Susan Buckley proudly holding a gold trophy with a quahog on top with the words, “2015 Winner of Best Stuffed Clam on Cape Cod” emblazoned on it. 

That image, which hangs in front of Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar, was taken shortly after Buckley won last year’s inaugural Cape Cod Quahog Challenge at Trader Ed’s in Hyannis.

Organized by HAC, the summer event is a way to highlight a regional culinary favorite all while going to support the nonprofit’s housing programs on Cape Cod and the islands. Featuring some of the top local restaurants and chefs, the challenge seeks to find the best stuffed quahog on all of Cape Cod.

Last year, that honor went to Buckley who was joined at the event by Arnold’s owner Nathan Nickerson. As the reigning champs, the pair will be back to defend their title.

As for their chances of repeating, Buckley was confident. “I’m very proud of these,” she said of the restaurant’s stuffed quahogs. “It took a long time to perfect them.”

List of Competitors Growing
Returning to the challenge is Trader Ed’s and Spanky’s Clam Shack in Hyannis. Joining them are newcomers Wicked n’ Wood, a catering business owned by Falmouth’s Dan Sawyer, and Buddha Belly Kitchen, a food truck owned by Chadchai Lohr.

When asked what makes a great quahog, Sawyer answered simply, “it starts with a good, clean, fresh quahog.” His recipe features Portuguese bread and mixes in a signature butter that includes either honey garlic, toasted coconut or sweet chili lime.

Stuffed quahogs, he said are “a Cape Cod tradition” and he was eager to submit his entry into this year’s competition.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Billy Moore, owner of Spanky’s Clam Shack. Like the other competitors, he expressed confidence in winning, but stressed the most important aspect of the challenge is that it benefits HAC.

“The thing I liked most was the sense of joy in knowing that you are helping out the less fortunate through Housing Assistance Corporation,” Buckley said in agreement.


Are You Up for the Challenge? 

If you're a chef or restaurant owner and you want to compete in the Cape Cod Quahog Challenge on Sunday, August 7, from 1 to 4 pm, at Trader Ed's, contact HAC's Deanna Bussiere at 508-771-5400, ext. 270 or at dbussiere@haconcapecod.org

Click here to learn more about the quahog challenge. 

Tags: Cape Cod Quahog Challenge, Fundraising, HAC Events, Quahog Challenge

The Heart Behind HEARTWAP

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 @ 10:22 AM


Often times there are acronyms for housing programs that don’t necessarily tell the entire story about how meaningful such a program can be for clients. And so it is with HEARTWAP, which stands for Heating Emergency Assistance Retrofit Task Weatherization Assistance Program.

On behalf of the state, HAC oversees HEARTWAP on Cape Cod and the islands. The figurative “heart” behind HEARTWAP is HAC’s Jo Ann Cournoyer.

Nancy Davison, HAC’s vice president of program operations, had high praise for Cournoyer’s work which “has resulted in people being safe and warm in their homes,” adding that HEARTWAP is “one of those hidden program gems which continues to provide valuable services because it is managed by a committed and competent HAC staff person.”

In April, Cournoyer celebrated her 10-year anniversary at HAC. “I love working at HAC and enjoy the tasks associated with my work,” Cournoyer said. For the past eight years, Cournoyer’s focus has largely been on managing the HEARTWAP program.

HEARTWAP provides emergency repairs and replacements of heating systems for homeowners who are receiving fuel assistance and whose income does not exceed 60 percent of the estimated state median income, equivalent to $33,126 for a one-person family; $43,319 for a two-person family; and $53,511 for a three-person family.

Cournoyer receives referrals from HAC’s energy auditors, other agencies and heating contractors. Once she receives permission from the homeowner to provide assistance, Cournoyer will set up a work authorization, sending a contractor to the home to determine if it’s a quick repair or more involved. Every situation is different, Cournoyer said, and could involve asbestos, mold or frozen pipes.

“The objective is to restore heat during emergencies and improve the efficiency of their heating system,” Cournoyer said, noting that the benefits of HEARTWAP is that “it helps with the economics of a client’s life… Heating system work is expensive.”

Last year, HAC was able to replace 45 heating systems, repair 193, clean and tune 218 and replace 26 oil tanks, work that these clients could not have paid for on their own.

To determine if you might quality for the HEARTWAP program, contact Jo Ann Cournoyer at 508-771-5400, ext. 106 or at jcournoyer@haconcapecod.org

Tags: Energy Assessments, HAC Energy, Jo Ann Cournoyer, HEARTWAP

Editorial: Learning To Do Things I Never Thought Possible

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 @ 11:40 AM


This will be the first time I have written my column while on vacation. The result is that this column may be a departure from my usual. It takes me about five days to change my thinking patterns away from work issues to whatever the time off involves. In this case I have traveled to rural Virginia to visit my lifelong best friend Paul with my wife, Melanie, and our just-home-from-college son, Paul. My son Paul is named after my best friend Paul.

My friend Paul (MFP) grew up in Massachusetts with three sisters, a mother who raised horses, and a father who traveled all over the world as an international diplomat and advisor to several Presidents. MFP was a great student and an Olympic athlete and an introvert—all very different than me. Our friendship is based on each of us admiring the other for our differences, our loyalty to each other, and our lifelong passion for cars, mostly European cars. MFP began his career as a college professor but before long became a part-time professor and full-time car hobbyist. His days have been spent for years not buying and selling cars, although he occasionally did that with great success, but restoring carefully chosen cars he had found for his permanent collection. Typically, the cars he now owns are worth ten times what he paid for them, but none are for sale.  He is an expert, needless to say, and he can do all the restoration work himself.

One of the purposes of our trip does involve a car. About five years ago MFP bought a pile of rusted and dusty parts of a race car built by an aircraft engineer in St. Louis in 1959. He bought it so he could recreate it while working with his namesake, my son Paul (MSP). Each year MSP spends about a week in Virginia. He is learning while fabricating, restoring and assembling this car. MFP and MSP have become fast friends. For the past week, I have been part of the rebuilding team and I have learned to do things I never thought possible.

The second extra special part of this vacation is that one of MFP’s sisters, Diana, who is three years my senior and who I have not seen for 45 years scheduled a visit from Seattle with one of her grandsons, who is 15. He has also been part of the magic of race car restoration and learning to do things you never thought you could do.

For me, seeing Diana was a tearful reunion. I felt a spark of renewal of a lifelong friendship that was only a seedling when we last met. Each night our little group of seven met and exchanged life stories which often involved things we had shared as youths, but had experiences in very different ways. Longtime friendships are important to me.

It was a terrific vacation and next year we are going to do it again. But now back to work, having learned some life lessons that apply well to my HAC family and many longtime and budding friendships where we often accomplish things that we may not have thought possible.

Tags: HAC, Rick Presbrey

Walking to Help Others

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jun 07, 2016 @ 11:37 AM

The list of Rev. John Rice’s ailments hardly make him a candidate to walk from one end of the Cape to the other. The 75-year-old South Yarmouth resident has a torn ligament in his right foot, an injury to his upper Achilles tendon in his left calf and neuropathy in both feet.

None of this is enough to stop Rev. Rice from walking parts of each day of the 24th Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk which will be held in the middle of July. “I’ll be out there plugging away,” he promised. “There are people out there in worse shape than I am.”

For that reason, Rev. Rice will walk for seven days during the hottest part of the year. He will do so as one of several celebrity walkers for HAC.

This will be the 12th year he has participated in the event which raises both awareness and funds for the region’s housing issues. He started walking at the urging of DJ Sullivan of South Yarmouth, who will be participating in his last walk this summer at the age of 80.

In Memory of His Mother

A retired Episcopalian priest, Rev. Rice has a personal connection to the types of services HAC provides. His mother was the recipient of a Section 8 voucher, allowing her to remain housed and live comfortably during the final years of her life. “My mother is really at the heart of my walk every year,” he said. “I am grateful to agencies, the government and volunteers that provide services like HAC does because I know up close and personal what a difference that makes in a person’s life.”

And so 12 years after he took his first steps from Provincetown and made his way to Falmouth seven days later, he continues to walk.

Despite the physical pain – two years ago he participated shortly after receiving his final radiation treatment for prostate cancer – he remains committed to helping those in need. “Surprisingly, we have a lot of economic problems here with younger families working two, three jobs just to put food on the table and keep their lights on,” he said.

HAC, he said, represents a vital safety net for those people. “What agencies like HAC do is they stop the fall and give a person the chance to rally their own resources to begin to float back to the top,” he said. “That is what it is all about.”


The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod

Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Rev. John Rice

Bernadette & Richard Waystack

Donate to the Walk

Tags: housing, Housing with love walk, Bob Murray, HAC Celebrity Walkers, John Rice

Angel House Playspaces Get a Makeover

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jun 02, 2016 @ 11:06 AM
AHouse_Playspace-1.jpgPlayspace Activities Leader (PAL) Liz McKee makes a paper airplane with one of the children at Angel House in the newly redesigned playspace room by Horizons for Homeless Children.

Opportunities for play are vital for the growth of any child. It may be even more important for children who have experienced significant trauma like those at HAC’s Angel House shelter.

Because of that, Horizons for Homeless Children, a nonprofit based out of Roxbury focused on improving the lives of young homeless children in Massachusetts, has made recreation a priority for those it serves through its Playspace Program.

In Southeastern Massachusetts, Horizons has helped fund and design playspaces for 29 shelters including Angel House. The HAC shelter has two indoor playspaces, one for babies and toddlers and the other for older children, the latter of which recently received a facelift courtesy of Horizons.

At the end of April, there was a ribbon cutting held to showcase the new space for older children. The space for younger ones also received new furniture and materials though the work was not as extensive. Twice a week, children are given the opportunity to explore these rooms and the toys and books found inside under the direction of Playspace Activity Leaders, or PALs.

Lin Rohr, facility director of Angel House, said these spaces serve as an invaluable resource for children at the shelter. “They usually have enough volunteers so if a child has the need for a one-on-one experience, they can get that, which is incredible,” she said.

Every five to 10 years, Horizons will fund a complete reinstall of the playspace which was done with the one for older children. “We are redoing them so they are up to current design standards,” said Meghan Schafer, the playspace program director for Horizons. At Angel House that meant changing the layout of the room, the colors on the wall and floor and adding new toys, books and furniture.

As her son played nearby, Victoria Chase, a mother staying at Angel House, said she was thankful for Horizon’s generosity. “I think the kids get a lot of use out of this and it’s a safe place for them to play,” she said. “And it’s great for people like Horizons to spend time with our kids.” 

Tags: Angel House, Horizons for Homeless Children, Lin Rohr, playspace, Angel House Playspace

Putting Spare Change to Good Use

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Jun 02, 2016 @ 09:41 AM


If you’re like most people, you put your spare change in a jar where it sits for years, collecting dust and going unused. Maria Brann, owner of Modern Mix, a contemporary gift shop located in Mashpee Commons, is hoping her customers will opt to put that change to better use through a program that gives back to the community.

She’s calling the program Change It Up and it allows Modern Mix’s patrons to contribute to HAC’s housing programs in a simple way. Here’s how it works: customers are given the opportunity at the register to round their change up to the next dollar. So for a hypothetical $9.15 purchase, they can opt to donate 85¢ to HAC. And Modern Mix will then match that donation.

Brann has chosen her two favorite charities, HAC and the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod, as the initial beneficiaries of this endeavor. “I feel personally that there but for the grace of God go any of us. A couple of bad things happen in life and you’ve found you lost your way. I find I’ve been blessed in my life,” Brann said as to why she has been a longtime, loyal donor to HAC.

Learn more about Modern Mix by visiting their website

Tags: donations, Modern Mix

Passing on a Passion for Reading

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, May 31, 2016 @ 12:36 PM
HAC_Book_Donation-16.jpgPatrik Barroso-Marta (left) and his younger brother Deandre donated three boxes full of children’s books to HAC’s library last month. 

“I love reading,” 10-year-old Deandre Barroso said proudly. “It feels like I’m going to a different dimension every time I read.”

Barroso, a fourth grader at Barnstable United Elementary School, made the statement at the end of April when he passed on a little of that magic to HAC clients by donating three boxes full of used children’s books to the agency’s free library.

“Some of them are mine,” his older brother Patrik, a freshman at Cape Cod Academy, chimed in.

Accompanying them was their guardian Kathleen O’Donoghue who said the two were compelled to donate the books after learning about the need through a HACbeat story shared on HAC’s Facebook page. Anyone who walks through  HAC's doors is welcome to take as many books as they want.

The library, which was created by CEO Rick Presbrey shortly after HAC moved to its current location in 1998, relies on donations of books for children and adults. Over the years, Presbrey said, “we’ve given kids thousands of books. They are better than toys.”

To donate to the free library simply drop off books, Monday through Friday, at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis, from 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Tags: HAC Library, Books, donations

NOAH Classes Offer Tools for the Cape's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, May 25, 2016 @ 10:51 AM
NOAH_Life_Skills_Photo.jpgNOAH's Deborah McDonnell (left) with shelter director Greg Bar. McDonell led an 11-week class that gave NOAH guests the tools and confidence to be successful after leaving shelter. 

This year, Deborah McDonnell will graduate from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire with a master’s degree in social work.

When she does, she will have practical experience that shows work in this field can provide tangible benefits to those most in need thanks to her time at the NOAH Shelter. McDonnell has been at the shelter since last July when she was hired as direct care staff.

She has combined her work at the shelter with her academic studies to provide Cape Cod’s homeless men and women with real-life skills that can help them once they move out of NOAH and into permanent housing. Last fall, McDonnell designed an 11-week course titled “It Gets Better” as part of a capstone project aimed at providing shelter guests with useful tools they can draw on when they achieve self-sufficiency. It’s a course she plans on bringing back to the shelter, in some form, in the future.

“I wanted to reintroduce guests to what their goals and dreams are and reconnect them with aspects of their community,” she said in December when she was handing out certificates of completion to 26 men and women who had taken part in the course. “It’s really shoring up their skills and giving them special strategies to work with anger management, conflict resolution and accumulating stress in their bodies.”

Reawakening NOAH Guests

To that end, she led participants in a variety of activities – meditation, physical exercises that included ping pong, charades and writing poetry – that tapped into parts of their mind and body that may have gone stagnant as they coped with homelessness.

Shelter director Greg Bar said the classes seemed to reawaken many shelter guests who became actively engaged in McDonnell’s lessons. “What I hope is that they realize life can get better,” Bar said. “And that it gave them some practical tools to move forward in life. Some people who started the group in October are gone, are housed and employed which is pretty cool.”

McDonnell hoped that NOAH guests would draw upon their experiences in the class to help them during life’s tougher moments so “that they keep reaching with the best they have to achieve all they want to achieve.”

Lou, a 62-year-old at NOAH, said McDonnell’s sessions were useful in helping him to better control his emotions. While his goal “is getting out of here, that’s step number one,” he said that NOAH has helped keep him both sober and safe, especially during the colder, winter months.

Both he and Doug, another guest at the shelter, admitted being homeless has been difficult. “The loss of self,” is the worst part, said Doug, who arrived at NOAH in November.

His message to those who may have negative attitudes towards the homeless spoke to the underlying concept behind McDonnell’s class: “I’d tell them to open their hearts to the possibility of helping somebody who is homeless,” Doug said.

Support the NOAH Shelter

Tags: homelessness, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar