Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Editorial: How Federal Budget Cuts Could Impact Your Neighbors

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

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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

HAC's Melpet Farm Recognized with National Award

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Mar 07, 2017 @ 10:02 AM

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A little more than a year after the Melpet Farm Residences was completed, the HAC project is in the national spotlight for its quality design and construction. In January, the development received a Silver Award from the National Association of Home Builders Best in American Living Awards program in the category of affordable, multi-family.

Consisting of 27 affordable apartments on 6.4-acres of land adjacent to Melpet Farm on Route 134 in Dennis, the development was a joint collaboration between HAC, the Preservation Of Affordable Housing (POAH), Brown, Lindquist, Fenuccio & Raber Architects, Delphi Construction, Horsley Witten Group and the Town of Dennis.

“We believe the overall team commitment to the design and implementation of high-performing building techniques to assist residents with control of their utility costs played a key role in the success of this project,” said Christine Howard, the director of business development for Brown, Lindquist, Fenuccio & Raber Architects. Melpet Farm was designed to be a net zero project, meaning it produces as much energy as it uses thanks to green measures such as solar panels.

The town purchased the property in 2001 in an effort to increase its affordable housing stock. It was not until 10 years later that HAC was selected by the town to develop the land into 27 units of affordable housing.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Melpet in October 2015 and shortly thereafter residents moved in. “This was truly a community partnership and the beneficiaries are living there now,” said HAC’s director of housing development Sandy Horvitz. “The real winners are the families that have an opportunity to thrive in this beautiful, rustic setting that has an amazing look and feel, adjacent to a working horse ranch.”

The Best in American Living Awards is the residential building industry’s premier awards program, recognizing the most creative and talented builders, remodelers, architects, designers, developers, land planners and interior designers who have redefined design excellence for homes and communities throughout the nation and the world.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod, Melpet Farm, Melpet Farm Residences, Sandy Horvitz, POAH, rental housing, Best in American Living Awards

Sandy Horvitz Tapped to Lead HAC's Development Efforts

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 @ 09:07 PM
Sandy Edited-1.jpgSandy Horvitz is overseeing HAC's development efforts. 

After more than 40 years’ worth of experience in the development of affordable housing across the country, Sandy Horvitz moved to South Dennis in 2012. He was set to retire, but that changed last year when he saw an advertisement that HAC was looking for a director to lead its development department.

“I felt as though I still have something left to contribute,” he said.

And he saw HAC, the region’s largest developer of affordable housing, as the perfect opportunity to do just that. “I want to work with a group that has that soul of wanting to produce more housing, that wants to add to the solutions to our problems and not be a bellyacher, but rather be proactive instead of reactive,” he said.

In the fall, HAC tapped Horvitz to lead its development efforts.

A native of Massachusetts, Horvitz’s career has taken him to five other states – New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana and Florida – where he has focused on housing and finding ways to finance projects that make affordable developments possible. He has worked with the Denver Housing Authority, consulted with the San Antonio Housing Authority and created his own firm with offices in El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; and Denver, Colorado, assisting housing authorities in accessing funding and overseeing the development of public housing projects.

He is excited to lend his expertise to HAC as it focuses its development efforts on everything from employer-assisted housing to multi-family developments to homeownership opportunities. “These next few years are going to be bellwether years for HAC to provide housing to help the economy grow,” he said. 

HAC’s Current Developments

Sachem’s Path (Nantucket) - 40 homes
Canal Bluffs (Bourne) - 44 rental units
Brewster Woods (Brewster) - 30 rental units

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod, affordable housing, Sachems Path, Sandy Horvitz, Canal Bluffs, Housing Development

HAC Gives Homeless Couple a Fresh Start in New Home

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 @ 11:44 AM
Georgina Wolf Photo-1.jpgGeorgina outside the Hyannis cottage that is now home to her and her husband Jim. 

In the last month that HAC ran NOAH, Georgina and Jim represented one of the final success stories in the agency’s 32-year history of operating the shelter. On the first day of October, the couple had moved into a Hyannis cottage, located less than a mile from HAC’s offices on West Main Street.

It represented a step forward for the two who had lived at the NOAH Shelter since January of last year.

At NOAH, they were connected to the services they needed, from medical to housing, to eventually become self-sufficient. The news that a home had been found for them was delivered by former shelter director Greg Bar, who is now a housing search specialist at HAC.

When they were living at the shelter, each of Georgina and Jim’s possessions fit into two separate totes which were placed under the separate twin beds they slept on every night. “It had all your paperwork and important documents, then your toiletries and then your clothing,” Georgina said of the totes, a little more than two weeks after she and her husband had a bigger space to fit their belongings.

No longer will they need a tote. But when they moved in October, they had yet to accumulate enough possessions to fill the small cottage. But that did not matter to them. That’s because this is now home.

What led them to homelessness? “Layoff, illness, having no income and I self-medicated with alcohol,” Georgina admitted.

Georgina’s struggles included two bouts with cancer, the last of which occurred while in shelter. Her husband, a licensed electrician, had undergone three major surgeries that left him disabled and unable to work.

When they arrived at NOAH, they had lost everything. “There was a fear of what is going to happen next,” Georgina said. “Will I ever have housing again?”

With each other’s love, Jim and Georgina made it through their darkest hours; while in shelter the two, who had been together for over 15 years, were legally married. And with HAC’s help, they slowly began to make progress.

“I feel grateful, very ecstatic,” Georgina said, inside her new home. “I feel that here, this place, is going to bring us back what we had lost.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, homelessness, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar

Shelter Telethon Puts Face to Cape's Housing Issues

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 @ 04:24 PM

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Holding a microphone in her right hand and a handwritten essay on a piece of paper in the other, Autumn Rivieccio’s words came out slowly and softly. “When I slept in my car one night with my mom and dad I really learned what homelessness was,” she started.

Perhaps no moment during last month’s Shelter Cape Cod Telethon was more poignant than that one; the moment when a 10-year-old student at the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School in South Dennis, spoke about her experience of sleeping in a car and living in motels.

There were “six or seven motels” to be exact. Perhaps the worst part, Autumn said, is that “we couldn’t have friends over.”

In September, that changed when Autumn and her parents moved into a home in West Yarmouth. “I feel like an actual family because friends and family can come over,” she said, adding that, “my favorite thing is my own room that I can decorate.” Her favorite decoration is a poster with a white kitten holding onto a rope; on it are three simple words: “Hang in There.”

Now in its 13th year, the telethon not only raised awareness to the region’s housing issues, it helped put a face to those impacted by them. People like Autumn Rivieccio and Cathy Gibson, the chair of HAC’s Constituency Committee.

Gibson, a former client, praised HAC for assisting her, first through its voucher program and then its Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. “The programs run by housing assistance really need to be exactly what they are intended to be: a leg up to be able to set yourself on a path that leads towards self-sufficiency,” she told co-host Matt Pitta of Cape Cod Broadcasting.

Throughout the night, both Pitta and co-host Mindy Todd of WCAI, spoke to those within the agency as well as those outside HAC about ways they are working to address the Cape’s housing issues.

The event also served as a way forward, raising nearly $80,000 for HAC in support of its mission to ensure that all on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have access to safe, secure housing.

Since 1974, when CEO Rick Presbrey founded the agency, it has been committed to that work. At the end of the night, Pitta took a moment to ask Presbrey about his legacy as he will be retiring in March. “The organization is going to continue. It’s helped 160,000 people and that’s going to continue,” Presbrey said. “I have tried to establish very positive values in how to treat people, how to be honest, and essentially to always be respectful to others, and I think that will stay and I feel good about that.”

Support HAC's Housing Programs

 

Tags: housing, Homeless on Cape Cod, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, homelessness, Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, Mindy Todd, Fundraising, Rick Presbrey, Matt Pitta

Editorial: Many Ideas, Many Opportunities

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 @ 09:36 AM

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With the New Year comes a fresh start for HAC. Our Incoming CEO Alisa Galazzi has begun work, starting a period of orientation before officially becoming the CEO.

With her arrival here in the office, there is lots of talk and laughter as she meets office staff. She will be on the road visiting our four family shelters and meeting staff and clients there, as well as meeting our many partners within the community through the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and even up in Boston.

It is an exciting time for the agency but, I have to admit, it is anxiety-producing for me. I have always loved what I do, but my time for exiting has come.

At HAC, our focus is helping people. That means that we work with others to get the job done, whether it is counseling a family to prevent foreclosure, bringing a homeless individual in for services, repairing a heating system in the home of a senior citizen, or sheltering a homeless family.

When someone approaches us asking for help, we try to always, say “Yes, we can help.” I know that this is not the way most of the world works, but for me, that’s how I like it. I know that the agency will be able to do even more good in the next 40 years and that it will remain a culture of sensitivity to the needs of others and our community.

I have found solace in the quote, “Decisions of the heart are always right.” I’m not sure who said it, but I have heard that it was Gandhi. Others try to make decisions through their intellect. I suspect the truth is that neither way is always the right way, but the decisions you make based on heart or intellect may be very different.

I will miss HAC. I will miss the new projects in the works and I will miss the wonderful staff. But be assured, I will keep busy. It has been so long since I started anything new that I had forgotten that starting new things is part of my DNA. There are many ideas and many opportunities in store, both for me and for HAC. And I know that helping people will remain the focus for both.

Tags: housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, HAC, Rick Presbrey, Alisa Galazzi, retirement

HAC Offers Free HCEC Classes

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 @ 03:21 PM
CCYP_HCEC_1-1.jpgHAC's Cheryl Kramer with CCYP Board Member Ryan Castle. 

Housing is one of the obstacles preventing young professionals from moving to Cape Cod and staying here. The Cape Cod Young Professionals (CCYP) is trying to change that by “moving the needle” in a positive direction as its board member Ryan Castle said at the organization’s 5th Annual Community Breakfast held in June at the Cape Codder Resort & Spa.

To that end, the CCYP Giving Circle Fund of The Cape Cod Foundation presented HAC’s Cheryl Kramer with a $2,500 grant at the breakfast that will allow residents in the region to take classes offered by the agency’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) for free. Those classes are Rebuilding Your Credit, Creating a Budget and Community Resources.

“Our hope is this is going to strengthen people’s financial knowledge of their own budgets, incomes and expenses and assist them in making decisions so their financial stability is a little bit stronger,” said Kramer, who manages the HCEC for HAC.

Those interested in taking advantage of this opportunity can opt to take one class or all three, depending on space. The following is the class schedule (click on the titles of each class to download the registration form) for the remainder of the year:

People must download and fill out the registration form, returning it to Cheryl Kramer at 460 West Main Street, Hyannis, MA 02601. You can also pick up hard copies of the application at HAC’s offices at 460 West Main Street.

Tags: HCEC, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Housing on Cape Cod, affordable housing, CCYP, housing consumer education

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

State Lends its Support to Sachem's Path Project

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 @ 08:30 AM
DSC 0053 resized 600Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick with HAC's Kate Ferreira at a press conference in June announcing funding for several affordable housing projects including Sachem's Path on Nantucket. 

During Massachusetts’ 2nd Annual Housing Week in June, HAC’s housing development project manager Kate Ferreira drove up to Dorchester to attend a press conference where Governor Deval L. Patrick announced state funding towards the initial phase of a project that will bring 40 affordable homes to Nantucket.

That was the first of several milestones that have been reached in recent months that has made the Sachem’s Path project a reality.

Along with the state commitment of $1.485 million towards Sachem’s Path, the town of Nantucket transferred the 10 acres of land, where the 40 units will be built, to HAC in August. A few days later HAC staff, along with many of the key players in the project - Nantucket Housing Authority, Housing Nantucket, Habitat for Humanity Nantucket, the Nantucket Community Preservation Committee, Horsley Witten Group and Oxbow Partners – gathered at the Dreamland Theater on Nantucket to celebrate how far Sachem’s Path has come and how close it is to fruition.

To learn more about Sachem’s Path and to keep up to date with the progress of the project visit www.sachemspath.org and LIKE the Sachem’s Path Facebook page.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Nantucket, Kate Ferreira, Governor Deval Patrick, Affordable Development on Cape Cod, affordable housing, Sachems Path