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

Making Homeownership Attainable on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 @ 09:51 AM
Karin Bar-2.jpgHAC's Karin Bar manages Barnstable County's Down Payment and Closing Cost Program.

Sometimes the difference between becoming a homeowner on Cape Cod and remaining a renter is the matter of a few thousand dollars. Over the past three years, HAC Housing Counselor Karin Bar has seen the impact this kind of money can have in realizing the American dream as the administrator for Barnstable County’s Down Payment and Closing Cost Program.

HAC has managed the program for more than two decades, providing first-time home buyers who meet income eligibility requirements with the funds they need to purchase a home.

How effective is the program? Last year, HAC gave away $250,000 to 20 households on Cape Cod. Those no-payment, zero interest loans ranged from just over $3,000 to $20,000; the average loan was roughly $14,000.

The program is federally funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Loans can only be used for homes in Barnstable County; in 2016, loan recipients purchased homes in Barnstable, Centerville, Marstons Mills, Yarmouth, Sandwich and Harwich. When one of these homes is sold, the loan will be returned to the county so the money can be used again for the same purpose.

Last May, the county raised the loan amount from $10,000 to $20,000, allowing applicants “to qualify for different loan programs and a slightly better house,” Bar said.

Those who benefit from the program tend to represent Cape Cod’s workforce. “These are teachers, bank employees, contractors, one person who works for DCF [Department of Children & Families], chefs, school administrators and health care workers,” she said, adding that the age range goes from those in their 20s to people in their 60s.

To qualify for a down payment or closing cost loan, Bar said, applicants need decent credit and have to be able to obtain a preapproval letter from a lender as well as a mortgage.

A Number of Benefits

One of the advantages of the county program, Bar said, is that “this makes housing affordable without creating a deed restriction” on the home. “That is what makes this very attractive.”

It often results in residents reducing their expenses as “their mortgage payment is the same or even less than the rent they were paying,” Bar said.

Home buyers can make these loans go even further with additional mortgage products that includes the Buy Cape Cod and Islands initiative which reduces the minimum down payment prospective homebuyers need to 1.5 percent. Rolled out last summer, the initiative is a collaboration between MassHousing, Bristol County Savings Bank, First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union and Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank to help people overcome the obstacles to homeownership.

As to why these programs are important, Bar highlighted several of those who made the jump from renter to homeowner last year, utilizing these HUD funds from the county. Last spring, a single father with a teenage son were living in a one-bedroom apartment in Hyannis. When they moved into their own home, Bar said, “the son actually cried, saying, ‘Thank you for helping me get my own room.’”

One family had been outbid on seven properties before utilizing $20,000 from the program to finally purchase a roughly $279,000 home in Centerville.

For Bar, who also conducts foreclosure counseling at HAC, the program represents the joyful side of her job. “It is fantastic. I get bouquets of flowers and hugs and kisses and tears. It is pretty wonderful. It is very rewarding when there is a happy ending,” she said.

For more information on HAC's Down Payment and Closing Cost Program, contact Karin Bar at either 508-771-5400, ext. 289 or at kbar@haconcapecod.org

Tags: affordable housing, homeownership, Karin Bar, Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program, Barnstable County HOME Program

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

Editorial: Day One

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 @ 03:06 PM

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It is Monday morning and the office next to mine is empty. Looking in, there are lots of reminders of previous occupancy. A yellow pad with familiar handwriting. Family pictures not yet removed. Paint rubbed off the wall from the desk chair hitting it as the occupant moved around. The echo of my words, “Hey, Michael” still hangs in the air from my many calls to him for help in solving a problem or for his memory of past events. But he will be in to finish cleaning out his office. Something to look forward to.

After 35 years at HAC, Michael Sweeney retired on Friday. He was the Chief Operating Officer. He was good at a long list of things that I am not good at. And he was always here getting it done.

Can we go on without him? I know we can. People have left before. But it won’t be the same. How do you fill the void of decades of working together with less than five minutes total of even mildly angry words? How do you fill the space inside you that completely trusts someone and depends on that person to be here in all situations? How do you replace the emptiness inside where the steadiness and dependability of a human relationship used to be?

At his retirement party Friday night my wife reported that when talking about Michael, I said that he wasn’t really a friend. I don’t remember saying that but if I did say it I know why. For me a friend is someone you hang around with for the fun and camaraderie you receive from that friendship. In Michael’s case we shared some of that. But 99% of our relationship was about our work at HAC. Yes, we shared social time, sometimes during working hours and sometimes on weekends, but Michael was not central in our social circle and we weren’t part of his. With Michael we worked together every day. We solved problems together every day. We sat in each other’s office every day. We passed in the halls every day. We went to the dump together every Saturday and talked about work most of the time and family some of the time. We spent a lot more hours together than I ever have spent with a “friend.”

There must be another word that describes our relationship. People who serve in the military, particularly in battles, refer to those they were closest to and who they experienced difficult times with as their “buddies.” I have never understood that term, but maybe it applies to Michael and me.We certainly qualify as buddies. The buddy bond will always be there. That comforts me. But I miss his presence now.

You can read more about Michael Sweeney's 35-year career at HAC and his contributions to those we serve by clicking this link.

Tags: Michael Sweeney, HAC, Rick Presbrey, affordable housing

HAC Welcomes Wolf and Wallace to Board

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

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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, Constituency Committee, HAC Volunteers, volunteerism, affordable housing

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: Rick Presbrey, Martha's Vineyard, 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, CCYP, Housing on Cape Cod, housing consumer education, affordable housing, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod

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

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