Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Alisa Galazzi

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Editorial: Cape Housing Institute a Step Towards Progress

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 @ 11:29 AM
Cape Housing-3-1.jpgArchitect Rick Fenuccio (left), president of Brown Lindquist Fenuccio & Raber Architects, and John Bologna, CEO of Coastal Engineering, are two of the presenters who have lent their expertise to the Cape Housing Institute. 

We kicked off the inaugural Cape Housing Institute this fall and it has been great to see so many town officials take advantage of this training. For instance, Mashpee Selectman John Cotton said he does not have all the answers. That’s why he signed up for the Cape Housing Institute because he told us he has a desire to learn more. 

John is one of roughly 140 officials who are taking part in the institute for similar reasons. They understand a shortage of affordable housing is a problem on Cape Cod, and they want to find ways to address that problem through development that meets the needs of their individual communities.

There are town managers, members of community preservation committees, chairs of local housing authorities, and more, who spend two hours each week to learn about topics such as Chapter 40B, housing production plans, and zoning, to name a few, from local and regional experts in the field of law, design, housing, and development.

Speakers have included Rick Fenuccio, president of Brown Lindquist Fenuccio & Raber Architects and Laura Shufelt, assistant director of community assistance at Massachusetts Housing Partnership.

During Rick’s talk, he focused on zoning and ways community leaders can use it as a tool to shape their affordable housing strategy. “Control your own destiny or someone else will,” he said.

Laura spoke about housing production plans, at one point highlighting the importance of both education and advocacy. “Getting leaders, town officials, on board is a great first step,” she said. “Advocates can’t do it alone. We need to have collaboration with lots of folks to get it done.”

We know that solving the Cape’s housing needs will not be immediate. And it cannot be done individually. We believe the institute is a great first step; it’s been encouraging to see that there are so many who fall in line with John Cotton’s way of thinking – that education can lead to progress.

But it does not end with education. We must take what we’ve learned during the housing institute and turn it into positive action. That will require municipal leaders, developers, planners, and the public coming together to take the next steps so we can begin to achieve the type of housing that meets the needs of our community and those who contribute to it.

At the beginning of next year, we will take another step towards progress: Advocacy Training for the general public. We hope you’ll join us.

Cape Housing Institute and Advocacy Training

In the winter of 2018, HAC and Community Development Partnership (CDP) in Eastham, will be launching Advocacy Training for the general public. Next year, we will also be bringing back the Cape Housing Institute for municipal officials who were unable to attend our inaugural session.

Click here to learn more about these initiatives and to stay updated on when the next training sessions will begin. 

 

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, education, Affordable Development on Cape Cod, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, Alisa Galazzi, Cape Housing Institute, Advocacy Training

Editorial: A Responsibility to One Another

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Thu, Nov 02, 2017 @ 12:05 PM
DSC_3522.jpgAmong the volunteers at this year's Big Fix were a number of high school students on Cape Cod. 

Every Sunday, as a child, I would go to my grandparent’s house for dinner. During those meals, they would give me a list of small chores to accomplish while I was there. 

Embedded in these chores were life lessons; it was a way of showing my love for my grandparents. Doing these tasks was also a reminder of our connection to one another and that, in large ways and small, we all have a responsibility to each other.

As my grandparents got older, their needs grew to the point where they relied on more than just small chores. When I went away to college, my cousins stepped up, making sure my grandparents were not only loved, but received the care and comfort they needed to survive.

Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury in today’s society. Families are often scattered throughout the country and picking up the phone to have a sister, brother, son or daughter quickly help is not so simple.

Once a year at HAC, we fill this void through our Big Fix. It’s an inspiring event, one that saw 340 volunteers help 18 complete strangers last month as part of our 8th Annual Big Fix in Falmouth.

The volunteers did relatively small tasks – clearing brush, installing new kitchen tile, painting a deck – in a few hours. The work may seem minor in nature, but the homeowners we spoke to admitted there was no way they could have done this on their own.

These people included a 91-year-old World War II veteran, a disabled woman who lost her husband a few years ago, and a legally blind couple in their 80s who have been married for over 50 years. For each, it was not easy asking for help. But when they did, there was no shortage of people who eagerly volunteered their time, talents, energy and enthusiasm to provide a little care and a lot of comfort to our neighbors in Falmouth.

It was a wonderful display of kindness that exemplified the best of Cape Cod. And it was an important reminder of the connection and responsibility we have to one another.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Big Fix, Falmouth, Alisa Galazzi, Falmouth Big Fix, home repair

Editorial: Threats to HCEC Funding

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 @ 11:02 AM

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Since I arrived at HAC in January, I have been struck by the number of people that our agency is able to help on a daily basis. Last year alone we provided over 5,600 clients with the housing services they needed to move forward with their lives in a positive direction.

Of that number, more than 1,200 people were served through our Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC). HAC’s HCEC is one of only nine in Massachusetts, and the only one that exists for those on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Due to recent budget cuts made by Governor Charlie Baker, these nine HCECs are being threatened, which will directly impact a large number of clients we serve at HAC. These are our neighbors - teachers, plumbers, electricians, firefighters, waiters, certified nursing assistants and more - who need help, support and housing stability to remain here on Cape Cod.

At HAC, our HCEC conducts client intake, determining whether there is an internal HAC program that can assist them or we need to refer them to an outside agency. Our HCEC also assists clients with housing search, working with them to find safe, secure housing in the region; provides foreclosure and reverse mortgage counseling; and offers financial literacy workshops for low- and middle-income residents.

Maureen Fitzgerald, executive director of the Regional Housing Network, which is made up of the nine HCECs throughout the state, recently wrote that, “the HCECs continue to be one of the Commonwealth’s most effective, impactful, and far-reaching housing and homelessness prevention programs. In an environment where resources are so narrowly targeted, the Centers fill in the gaps, ensuring that the right people get to the right resources at the right time.”

The statement was made as part of a letter written in light of Governor Baker’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget which had $320 million worth of vetoes, including a $600,000 reduction in funding for HCECs statewide. This will negatively affect agencies like HAC’s HCEC which is working with individuals and families at risk of homelessness, facing eviction, and seeking to find affordable rentals.

Because of this threat, I have spent time at the State House in Boston this month, meeting with our legislators to urge them to restore both the $800,000 vetoed in Line Item 7006-0011 and the language directing support to the state’s HCECs. We must ensure that the proper state funding is in place so agencies like HAC can continue to serve these clients in an effective and efficient manner.

Tags: HCEC, Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, State budget, housing consumer education, Alisa Galazzi, Governor Charlie Baker

Editorial: Meaningful Impact of Canal Bluffs

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 @ 11:52 AM
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One of the highlights for me last month at HAC was the groundbreaking at Canal Bluffs, which is the third phase of what will be 117 mixed-income housing units in the Town of Bourne.

We have had a lot of cloudy and rainy days this summer, but the day of the groundbreaking dawned clear and the ceremony took place under beautiful sunny skies. It was an apt metaphor for the project which brings affordable, workforce and market-rate apartments for families and seniors in a residential community off MacArthur Boulevard in Pocasset.

The project continues the partnership that HAC has forged with POAH (Preservation of Affordable Housing) in the development and management of affordable housing throughout the Cape.
We all know about the shortage of affordable housing in the region, but Congressman Bill Keating, the keynote speaker for the event, talked about what a project like this does for the economy, not just in the short-term, in providing construction jobs, but in the long-term for the workforce who live in the homes.

We have long been working to get the word out to the community that people who live in developments like Canal Bluffs are our neighbors, friends and family. Based on recent housing lotteries HAC has conducted for rental and homeownership units throughout the region, the people who live in affordable housing work as waitresses, construction workers, dental hygienists, bookkeepers, mechanics, handymen, truck drivers, legal secretaries, plumbers, bartenders, personal trainers and teachers, to name just a few professions. They are the people who make the Cape’s economy thrive.

During the Canal Bluffs ceremony, I took the opportunity to give credit for the project to HAC’s founder and CEO Emeritus, Rick Presbrey. He had the vision and foresight to put the deal together. Over the past four decades, HAC has brought over 500 affordable units to our region.

The best part of it all is that after the third phase of Canal Bluffs is completed, 117 families get the opportunity to live here, the opportunity to come home, to put their groceries away and have a safe place to rejuvenate, where their children can launch their dreams and where families can live their lives on beautiful Cape Cod.

Click this link to learn more about the Canal Bluffs groundbreaking and what the development means to the residents that live there. 

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Bourne, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod, affordable housing, Alisa Galazzi, Canal Bluffs, POAH, Preservation Of Affordable Housing

Editorial: Aligning Our Goals, Strengthening Our Mission

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 @ 04:41 PM
HAC Goals-2 Edited.pngHAC staff take part in a recent goal-setting workshop under the direction of Nathan Herschler. 

As the new CEO at HAC, my vision is to improve the agency so that it continues to be a high-performing agency that consistently delivers meaningful, measurable, and financially sustainable services to our clients.

This month, I’ve been pleased that the entire agency has gone through a multi-tiered team-building exercise focused on goals. I put together a list of seven areas for us to look at as we identify goals for the coming year: HAC’s staff; financial operations; data collection and analysis; collaboration and customer service; process improvement; program outcomes; and external evaluation.

To take the staff through the goals process, I brought in Nathan Herschler , who is the full-time director of program operations for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). At IFAW, Nathan manages the annual budgeting process, coordinates program planning, monitoring, evaluation, and overseas compliance with government funding.

Having an outsider with his level of expertise analyze HAC’s work is an invaluable tool that will lead to internal efficiencies which will ultimately benefit HAC’s clients.

Nathan volunteered his time—more than 50 hours!—to help HAC staff draw up goals in the seven areas.

How did we get free help from such a highly qualified individual? In Nathan’s own words, he said he wanted to help because, “HAC is such an important part of the community. I wanted to do whatever I could to support the team and its mission.”

Nathan led short sessions with each department to look at their strengths and the challenges they face. The sessions also took this review a step further by evaluating the agency as a whole.

Nathan explained his work with HAC this way: “This goal-setting exercise is just part of an iterative planning, action, and learning process aimed at continuously improving the services provided by HAC. In the end, all nonprofits are looking to maximize the amount of quality program service they can deliver to their stakeholders. Good planning leads to effective action which leads to impact for those HAC serves.”

Each department presented their goals at an all-staff meeting on June 22. Those goals will be used to to measure our impact, build upon strengths, and mitigate challenges over the course of the next fiscal year.

Through this important undertaking, we are strengthening and building resources so that HAC will continue to thrive and serve our community.

Tags: strategic planning, Alisa Galazzi, team building, HAC Goals

Editorial: Working with our Legislators to Tackle the Cape's Housing Challenges

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Tue, May 16, 2017 @ 10:50 AM

Julian-3.jpgState Senator Julian Cyr (second from left) with HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi (from left), Director of Leased Housing Cindi Maule, Director of Family and Individual Services Cassi Danzl and Chief Operating Officer Walter Phinney. 

I have been spending my first few months as CEO of HAC getting to know the leaders in our community. It has been particularly gratifying to meet members of our legislative delegation and to learn of their passion to help all the residents of our region.

When State Senator Julian Cyr stopped by HAC’s offices recently, he said housing has been one of the main issues at the forefront of his constituents’ minds.

During his visit, Senator Cyr told us, “Housing and access to housing that is affordable is a top issue for us on Cape Cod, on Martha’s Vineyard and on Nantucket. Our real estate market is so aggressive here that most anyone who is a middle-income wage earner, including working families, is struggling to make it here… We really need to have housing that meets our needs.”

Meeting the needs of those in the region when it comes to affordable housing has always been a major focus for HAC and it will continue to be so in the coming years.

I was pleased to learn that even prior to becoming a State Senator in November, Senator Cyr said, he has long admired HAC’s work on the Cape and Islands. “HAC is just one of those organizations that is a real pillar of the community. HAC has been doing work for generations to make sure our most vulnerable have housing.”

After taking a tour of HAC’s offices and meeting the staff on the front lines of delivering housing services for HAC, the Senator gave his impressions of the meeting. “I was just really impressed with the scale and scope of how HAC helps people realize housing on Cape Cod and the Islands, from the most vulnerable people who are homeless living in the streets to helping people improve the energy efficiency of their homes. I have a renewed appreciation for how much HAC does.”

We’re looking forward to partnering with Senator Cyr and the rest of the Cape and Islands delegation on strategic regional issues, and having our voice and mission loudly and clearly represented at the State House.

It is through these partnerships between HAC, our legislators and other leaders in the community, that we can add more resources for our clients and do more to help them succeed.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, homelessness, State budget, Alisa Galazzi, Julian Cyr

Editorial: How Federal Budget Cuts Could Impact Your Neighbors

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 @ 02:00 PM

Galazzi_Website (2017).jpg

President Trump’s proposed $7 billion budget cuts to affordable housing, community development and social services programs appear to take a direct hit on our nation’s most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless, including those on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

In this region, as in many other parts of the country, wages have not kept up with cost of living increases. In addition, the Cape’s high rents and home prices, driven up by second homeowners and resort factors, continue to be out of reach for working year-rounders. HAC’s programs funded through HUD dollars are the foundation for economic mobility and stability in our community.

All told about 1,250 of HAC’s clients on the Cape and Islands could be affected if all the President’s recommended cuts take place. These programs bring $11 million annually from the federal government through HAC and into the Cape’s economy through rents and other assistance.

At Housing Assistance Corporation, we know the local stories behind the funding. We know how the assistance that flows from the federal government to our friends and neighbors here helps the neediest among us. It is not an exaggeration to say that these programs save lives.

HAC’s largest program is our Section 8 Housing program, which currently houses more than 1,000 families across the Cape and Islands. Recent news from HUD indicates that thousands of vouchers may be eliminated for low-income working families, seniors and people with disabilities. Besides pumping $750,000 per month into the Cape Cod economy through rents, HAC’s Section 8 program allows working families to stay on Cape Cod.

One of those with a voucher is Amy, a disabled senior who grew up on Cape Cod, but was unable to afford to live here. Because of her voucher, she has been able to stay on Cape Cod, work and raise her family in the town where her parents, grandparents, and great grandparents once lived.

One of our signature programs that is funded through HUD is HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program that enables families to move off of government assistance and to self-sufficiency. A recent graduate of HAC’s Self-Sufficiency program, a single mom named Lisa who has three kids in Barnstable Schools, used the program to help her gain the necessary skills to move up in her job and budget more efficiently. At the end of the program, she is putting a down payment on her first home. That is how this program changes lives.

HAC is joining with other Community Development Corporations throughout the state and the country to urge congressional leaders to continue to support these valuable programs and, especially, the people that these programs serve.

Tags: Section 8, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Family Self Sufficiency, affordable housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Budget

Editorial: Optimism for our Future

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Thu, Mar 09, 2017 @ 04:05 PM

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It has been a whirlwind—in the best way. I have spent the past two months getting to know the staff and dozens of programs at HAC. Each day, I have been amazed at the range of services that this agency accomplishes, the programs that lift people up and build community here on Cape Cod.

Rick Presbrey has built HAC into one of the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit social service agencies on Cape Cod. I am honored to have been chosen to take the reins of the agency and continue the good works that HAC is known for throughout the region.

HAC not only runs four family shelter programs—housing 174 families last year alone—but also runs the largest rental assistance program in the region, with over 1,100 households. Our homeless prevention program ensured 198 families did not become homeless last year. Our Energy and Repair department continues to help families save money by making homes more energy efficient. Our Housing Consumer Education classes and counseling supported everyone from seniors whose homes were at risk of foreclosure to young couples looking to purchase their first home.

I am looking forward to getting to know you, HAC’s supporters. Your support makes these programs possible and your input is important. As we assess HAC’s programs and their impact, I’d like to hear what you think.

There is a lot of work to be done and it is a challenge I welcome. Working with the HAC staff and with others throughout our community, I know we can make strides, together.

Tags: Family Shelter, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, HAC, homeless prevention, Alisa Galazzi