Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

HAC Welcomes Wolf and Wallace to Board

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 @ 12:14 PM

Dan_Wolf_Photo.jpg

Two familiar faces – State Senator Dan Wolf and Tara Wallace - have made a return to HAC’s board of directors. The pair was appointed at HAC’s board meeting last month with Wolf filling a vacancy on the executive board and Wallace filling a seat on the constituency committee.

Wolf said he was eager to return to the board, especially because “the biggest economic issue we face on the Cape is the housing issue. HAC is probably the most important player in the quasi-private sector on the issue so I think we have the best opportunity to look at ways to address this issue regionally that allows people to have a lifestyle on the Cape we can be proud of.”

His appointment comes as he concludes his third and final term as a State Senator for the Cape and islands. The founder and CEO of Cape Air said he truly enjoyed his time in office which will officially end on January 4. “I love that government can really be a collaborative partner on addressing the issues,” he said.

With his role as a HAC board member, he will continue to work towards solving the issue of housing. “HAC has been committed to really addressing housing and home issues for over 40 years,” he said. It’s really an amazing organization and I look forward to being part of the team.”

Tara Wallace Photo.jpgTara Wallace of HAC's Constituency Committee

As a former client, Wallace knows just how the agency can help those in need. The agency had a role in getting Wallace her first apartment thanks to a Section 8 voucher and taught her crucial life skills through its Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. “I wouldn’t be where I am without HAC,” she said. “They not only helped me with housing and a car, but they helped me be able to sustain myself and eventually become independent.”

Today, Wallace is working for the Department of Transitional Assistance in Hyannis, where she is a benefit, eligibility and case social worker. A former member of the constituency committee, she expressed similar excitement to serve once again. “I feel like it is a very important role,” she said of the committee. “It is a good tool for HAC to be able to understand where their clients are coming from and how certain rules or programs affect clients.”

Tags: HAC Executive Board, volunteerism, HAC Volunteers, affordable housing, Constituency Committee

Summer on Cape Cod

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 @ 10:13 AM

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I am not taking any travelling vacation this summer. Work is especially busy because we are trying to fill three key positions: the Director of Energy Programs; the Director of Homeless Prevention Services; and the Director of Housing Development. We also have a new COO, Walter Phinney, who started two weeks ago. The result is that I am trying to take just an occasional vacation day—staying local—this summer. That’s how I ended up as a day tripper on Martha’s Vineyard on a recent Monday.

I’ve never spent time on the Vineyard as a tourist, but I’ve been there on business over the years. I’ve have always planned my trips for the early morning hours so that I can be back at my desk by noon.

HAC has built affordable housing on the Vineyard. Back in the early 1980s, HAC partnered with Island Elderly Housing on a Martha’s Vineyard development called Hillside Village, which had 40 rental units for seniors. It is the only multi-family project HAC has been involved with. HAC also built 15 homeownership units on the Vineyard as part of a Self-Help Ownership project.

Last fall, HAC opened our first “office” on the Vineyard. Our part-time staffers share space in the Dukes County office building. They provide much-needed assistance to Vineyarders looking for affordable housing. I know the Vineyard to be a place where the challenge of affordable housing is even greater than it is on the Cape, not least because of the staggering price of real estate.

Last month, my wife Melanie, my son Paul and I, with another couple, took the day and went to the Vineyard as tourists. We rented a Jeep and proceeded, after a quick breakfast in Oak Bluffs, to begin to drive the perimeter of the island. We headed to Edgartown and following our noses and signs, headed to the Chappaquiddick ferry. For $28 round-trip, the five of us and our car rolled on to the three-car-ferry for the three-minute ride across. We satisfied our curiosities about the Ted affair and followed signs to the Mytoi Japanese gardens a few minutes away. The 45-minute walk through the gardens was fascinating and pleasingly invigorating.

Our next stop, a fair drive away, was something I have wanted to see for many years, the cliffs at Aquinnah. Our group was hungry by now, but there wasn’t much on the drive and the trinket shops at the site didn’t offer much hope. We walked up the short hill and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the cliffs and the Native American story that went with it. Part way back to the car I checked the snack bar only to find that it was a full-fledged restaurant with outside seating overlooking the beach far below and the ocean. We all enjoyed our lunch and marveled at our location with the “best view in the world!”

After lunch we headed back to the ferry, enjoying the rural country and farm views. We took the 5 pm boat back to Falmouth, a very thrilled, happy and tired fivesome. And I got to see a side of the Vineyard I had never seen before.

Tags: Martha's Vineyard, Rick Presbrey, affordable housing

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

HAC Hosts CHAPA's Spring Regional Meeting

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 03:10 PM
chapa.jpgEric Shupin (left) and Brenda Clement (right) of CHAPA and William Dunn (middle) of MassHousing talk with talk to Gael Kelleher, HAC’s director of Cape Community Real Estate. 

The continuing struggle to create affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth was the focus of a meeting of regional housing advocates last month in HAC’s Hyannis office. HAC hosted the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) spring regional meeting on April 1.

“You can’t do affordable housing without subsidies,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said to the more than two dozen people gathered for the session. “There is no return on the investment for rental housing for even middle income levels.” That was just one of the issues discussed at the meeting, as CHAPA officials outlined their priorities for the coming year.

Each year, CHAPA officials travel across Massachusetts to meet with housing professionals, advocates, community members, elected officials and other stakeholders that want to expand access to safe, quality, and affordable housing. 

The meeting in HAC’s conference room was an opportunity to hear updates on affordable housing and to help CHAPA develop its agenda for public policy, research, and programming for the year.

Besides affordable housing, two areas of focus for CHAPA are homelessness prevention and community development. Those top the list of capital budget priorities that CHAPA is working on with legislators on Beacon Hill.

Seeking State Support

Among the state-financed programs promoted by CHAPA that HAC provides access to for its clients is the HomeBASE program, which offers families an alternative to shelter by providing stabilization funds. State funds for the program have been severely cut in the past several years, from a high of $88 million in Fiscal Year 2013, to a low of $25 million in Fiscal Year 2015, according to figures from CHAPA. This year, CHAPA is asking state legislators for $39 million for the program because of the rising need for the funds.

Another state-funded program, Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), also helps families who are at risk of homelessness remain housed. CHAPA is asking for the state to fund the RAFT program at $18.5 million, a significant increase from this year’s $12.5 million in funding.

In the area of foreclosure prevention counseling, another program HAC offers to its clients, the state has provided an average of $2.5 million over the past several years. This year, CHAPA is requesting $3.6 million.

Among the initiatives outlined by Brenda Clement, CHAPA’s Executive Director, was the National Housing Trust Fund, which CHAPA officials believe will help create lower income rental housing. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development will be holding hearings on the fund.

Eric Shupin of CHAPA gave a legislative update on several bills that have been filed including a zoning reform bill that is a major priority of Cape & Islands Senator Dan Wolf. The bill would encourage more housing and mixed use developments, as well as promoting land conservation and incentivizing growth.

Tags: CHAPA Regional Meeting Cape Cod, affordable housing, CHAPA

HAC Helps Client Turn Her Life Around

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, May 12, 2016 @ 03:05 PM
Jillian_Prudeaux_Photo.jpgJillian Prudeaux and her soon-to-be five-year-old daughter Adria in their apartment at Melpet Farm Residences. 

Five years ago, when Jillian Prudeaux had nowhere else to go, she turned to HAC. “When I met her, she was at the lowest point in her life,” said HAC’s Housing Specialist AnnMarie Torrey. 

It’s an assessment that the 29-year-old Prudeaux agrees with. “I was pretty down and out,” she said. “I was being evicted and eight and a half months pregnant.”

And so Torrey, who works with families to connect them to housing, housing assistance, training and job opportunities did the same with Prudeaux at a time when she needed it most. “I do anything that I can to help people become self-sufficient,” Torrey said.

Prudeaux was admittedly lost, lacking the skills she needed to not only live independently, but care for a child that was on the way. “I had my daughter in the midst of my life being in turmoil,” she said.

But with Torrey’s help, she slowly was able to make changes so the turmoil began to subside. “I think a lot of people in my life doubted my determination, but AnnMarie was always there,” Prudeaux said. “She always helped me.”

The first step was to find Prudeaux housing. Torrey did just that, identifying a one-bedroom apartment in Dennis that Prudeaux lived in for nearly four years. It was relatively small, but with HAC providing rental assistance Prudeaux was able to find stability. 

Driven to Succeed

Still, Prudeaux wanted more. “She told me she was going to make me proud and she was going to succeed,” Torrey said.

Initially, that meant making sacrifices that included taking public transportation from Dennis to Hyannis – she did not have a car at the time – with her daughter Adria, dropping her off at daycare before heading to work. “She was really putting a lot of effort into it,” Torrey said. “She was very motivated and sincere and determined and she was full of life.”

That effort eventually paid off. Today, Prudeaux is the manager for the Subway in Dennis Port, providing her with enough income to support her family so she no longer relies on HAC for rental assistance.

Last year, she reached out to HAC for help once again, this time with the agency’s real estate department. Prudeaux put her name into a lottery for a rental apartment at Melpet Farm Residences, an affordable housing development in Dennis built by HAC and the Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH). Her name was picked and she moved into her new apartment with her daughter in December.

Looking at far how she has come, Prudeaux was proud of all that she has accomplished. “Four years ago, I would cry myself to sleep because I wouldn’t be able to eat,” she said.

She credited HAC for helping her gain the one thing she did not have when she first met Torrey – self-sufficiency. “I thank HAC for giving me the tools to succeed in life. They really helped shape me into an adult,” she said. “HAC is like a little group of angels.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: affordable housing, Rental Assistance, Melpet Farm Residences, AnnMarie Torey

Supporting Martha's Vineyard's Housing Needs

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 @ 10:17 AM
MV_Karen_and_Esther.jpgKaren Tewhey (left) and Esther Laiacona are providing a visible presence for HAC on Martha’s Vineyard. 

Martha’s Vineyard residents looking for support with housing issues are in luck thanks to an on-island HAC representative focused on assisting those in need.

That position, funded by the state, was filled in January by Karen Tewhey, a seasonal resident on Martha’s Vineyard for 25 years. She moved to the island permanently in October with her husband James Tewhey, an attorney.

Joining Tewhey with providing an island presence for HAC has been Esther Laiacona, who was hired to oversee special projects under the direction of Nancy Davison, the agency’s vice president of program operations.

Tewhey, whose official title is housing counselor, works out of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority on State Road in Vineyard Haven, where she has been helping to address the island’s diverse housing needs.

Just three months into her assignment, Tewhey spoke to those needs which she termed “enormous,” highlighting the Vineyard’s, “high percentage of individuals in substandard housing: families living in one room with their children; families doubled up in substandard units; and families involved in the housing shuffle who don’t have permanent housing for 12 months of the year.”

Tewhey has worked closely with the community’s homeless men and women who benefitted from Hospitality Homes, a new program started by the Martha’s Vineyard Island Clergy Association this winter to provide shelter to this segment of the population. The shelters, located at Federated Church and Grace Episcopal Church in Edgartown, provided food and a bed to 18 men and 5 women, through the end of March.

Island’s Housing Challenges

She said the program was successful in providing a structured, safe, comfortable environment for those who are most vulnerable. At the same time, she said, it has highlighted gaps in services on the Vineyard which start with the lack of year-round affordable housing. “There are no apartments available at all on the island,” Tewhey said. Compounding this problem is that many individuals and families live in apartments or homes with nine-month leases, forcing them to find temporary housing during the summer as part of the island’s housing shuffle.

Tewhey is available to provide support for anyone with housing needs on the island and works closely with Laiacona, who was homeless on Martha’s Vineyard with her two children for 15 months. Laiacona now sits on the Martha’s Vineyard Homelessness Task Force, offering a real-life perspective on the challenges of being homeless on the island.

“I understanding what it’s like to not eat a meal so you can buy shoes,” Laiacona said, noting that her experience gives her a compassion for those who are homeless and a voice advocating for change.

At HAC, her first project was to research the health and human services resources available in Dukes County, Barnstable County, statewide and nationwide, information that will go on the Massachusetts Housing Consumer Education Centers website (www.masshousinginfo.org) as well as the HAC website.

Together, Laiacona and Tewhey are forging a presence on the island so that HAC can better address the housing needs there. “I think it’s satisfying to me to be a knowledgeable resource for individuals who might not know how to maneuver through the system,” Tewhey said. “It can be daunting to deal with state agencies, so I have the luxury and education where I can be a resource for residents and a voice for them.”

If you live on Martha's Vineyard, you can learn more about our services on the island by clicking this link.  

Tags: homelessness, Martha's Vineyard, affordable housing, Hospitality Homes

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: A New Beginning

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 @ 04:33 PM

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At the start of this fiscal year, which started last July for us, we decided to begin a new initiative to develop white papers on a variety of subjects related to housing and our clients on the Cape and Islands. This endeavor was launched as we contemplated our 40-plus-year history and the 40 years ahead. 

During the past four decades we have helped more than 160,000 people with a wide variety of services related to housing. HAC’s efforts have garnered results in many ways. We hope we have changed attitudes. We have helped create new organizations to accomplish our or related missions and we may have precipitated an environment that is a lot more friendly to the idea of public involvement in creating housing that is “affordable.”

The fundamental problem in our region, as I have said many times, consists of several components: 1) our seasonal demand drives up housing prices; 2) our service-based economy provides low-paying jobs; 3) the cost of building rental housing for year-round tenants is too high to provide a return on investment with the rents local people can afford to pay; 4) lack of multifamily zoning districts makes land appropriate to build multifamily rentals in short supply; 5) lack of public wastewater systems makes it difficult to build rental developments of a size that provides efficiencies of scale.

I appreciate that we, at HAC, have won many battles to provide decent housing for people, but we have lost the war so far in that housing problems are worse now than they were when we started in 1974. One result of this conclusion is that we have started to research and publish “white papers” to help add to the information we need as civic leaders and citizens to make the most informed decisions possible to improve the future availability of housing for an economically diverse population in our region.

We hope to publish four papers a year. Some of the topics under consideration now are:

  • The shortage of rental housing for young professionals, seniors and people with lower incomes. Presently, demand exceeds supply.
    A report card on how town-based Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds are being used.
  • The relationship between housing insecurity to children’s health, education, and the general well being and prospects for their future.
  • The relationship between trauma in early life and homelessness.
  • Regulatory barriers to providing housing for those on the autism spectrum.
    Housing Court for Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket Counties: Do we need one and will it happen?
  • Reverse mortgages: the benefits and the pitfalls.

I hope you take the opportunity to read our future white papers on our website and email us your comments and suggestions for future subjects.

 

Tags: affordable housing

Housing Cape Cod's Aging Demographic

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 @ 12:09 PM

Maplewood_1.jpgThe entrance to the recently built Maplewood at Brewster assisted living facility. 

A home is tied to our identity, whether it’s a first, second or third one. Home gives us comfort and peace, particularly as we start to age and our needs become greater.

A select group of Cape residents will find that comfort in Maplewood, a new assisted living facility consisting of 132 units on 22 acres of land in Brewster. At the beginning of this week, HAC’s Cape Community Real Estate oversaw the lottery for 14 of those apartments – seven assisted living and seven memory care – that have been designated as affordable. The monthly rent, including services, for the affordable units is roughly $3,000.

“We don’t do a lot of these,” Gael Kelleher, the director of the real estate department, said, noting that this was an unusual lottery because of the demographic for the units. Technically, they are for those over the age of 62, but HAC received 25 applicants, the majority of whom were born in the 1920s and 30s.

Before starting the process, Kelleher admitted that, “we thought it would be difficult to find applicants that fit within the guidelines,” a preconception that turned out not to be the case.

To be eligible, applicants had to make less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Barnstable County, or $46,100 a year for one person. That income would make it difficult for anyone to afford the monthly rent so Kelleher said applicants needed to have the proper assets – accrued savings, property or retirement accounts – to cover those costs.

The need for affordable housing for Cape’s elderly demographic is growing, said Nancy Davison, HAC’s vice president of program operations. “This is the first time we’ve worked with a developer of assisted living units in trying to find eligible residents for this type of facility,” she said. “I thought it was interesting… In a number of ways, this lottery is illustrating the fact that our population here is getting older.”

With that fact brings a whole host of needs – medical, social and domestic – for those entering the latter stages of life. Simple tasks such as getting up and down the stairs are difficult for some and impossible for others. Cooking, cleaning and remembering to take one’s pills are other chores that become increasingly onerous as one ages.

Maplewood_Photo_22.jpgHAC's Gael Kelleher (right), draws numbers at the lottery held earlier this week at Maplewood, a new assisted living facility in Brewster, as Bridget Armstrong, also of HAC, looks on. 

The benefits of a facility like Maplewood are that they address many of these needs in-house. They provide residents in assisted living units one meal per day with the option of purchasing more; three meals per day are provided for those in memory care units. They offer social and recreational activities, shuttle services and housekeeping. And assistance with prescriptions as well as medical treatment, can be included at an additional cost.

Kelleher said each applicant has their own individual story for why moving to a facility like this makes sense. But the common thread, she said, is that “they just can’t continue to stay in their houses, but can’t necessarily go live with their children because they are not set up with the care that is needed.”

In addition to the 14 units at Maplewood in Brewster, HAC will oversee two additional lotteries for similar Maplewood facilities, both of which are in Yarmouth – Maplewood at Mill Pond off Route 28 and Maplewood at Mayflower Place on Buck Island Road – and are slated for completion in 2017.

Personally, Kelleher said overseeing this lottery has provided a unique perspective on the aging process. “It is very important to have some retirement money set aside,” she said. “It’s a difficult situation people will be in where they can’t stay in their house, but can’t afford the $5,000, $6,000 or $7,000 a month needed for an assisted living facility. All of us should take pause because there will be a time in the future where we won’t be working anymore and our social security isn’t going to do it.”

To her, this experience has demonstrated one simple fact – housing impacts those of all ages. “We serve a very diverse population, from children all the way up,” Kelleher said. “And housing is an issue across all boundaries, when we’re young, in the middle and near the end. It is an issue for everybody.”

 

Tags: affordable housing

Year Round Rentals Needed on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 08, 2015 @ 02:18 PM

Do you have a rental property that is vacant, or will be in the near future? Did you know HAC provides a free rental listing service?

Available rentals are posted to our website, free of charge, at a property owner’s request. The listing can be downloaded by prospective tenants who will contact you directly. Click this link to learn more about the rental property listings. 

There is a serious lack of year-round rentals right now! If you have any availability, please contact Liz Belcher at lbelcher@HAConCapeCod.org or call 508-771-5400, ext. 210.

Tags: housing, year round rentals, affordable housing