Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Preparing Residents to Become Homeowners on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Nov 02, 2017 @ 03:12 PM
Homebuyer17-3.jpgHAC Housing Counselor Karin Bar teaches a First-Time Homebuyer workshop in September. The classes are offered in four-day or two-day sessions as well as online for those unable to attend in person. 

On the last Thursday of September, 36 people sat quietly in the conference room at HAC’s office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis.

Individually, they may have been different, but they all shared at least two similarities – they each rent a home or an apartment on Cape Cod. And they all hope to one day become a homeowner.

On this night, HAC Housing Counselor Karin Bar provided guidance on how they can achieve those dreams as part of the agency’s First-Time Homebuyer Workshop. HAC offers the class eight times a year; in 2016, 282 people, representing 196 households, took the class to prepare them for the home buying process.

“They are always full and in demand,” said Bar, who has been teaching the classes for the past three years.

There are a number of reasons people take the classes. Certain loan programs, including those offered by MassHousing, Fannie Mae, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and the United States Department of Agriculture, require it.

“To get down payment assistance, it’s a requirement,” Bar added.

It’s also necessary for anyone who wants to purchase an affordable or deed-restricted home.

Homebuyer17-1.jpgJohn Hughes (left) of Falmouth and Ernesto Garcia of South Yarmouth review materials during a First-Time Homebuyer workshop held in October. 

Topics covered during the workshop include budgeting, credit, and loan programs available to homebuyers. Clients also have access to local experts, from Realtors to real estate attorneys to insurance agents to home inspectors, who walk students through each step one must take to fulfill the American dream.

“I think this program is a great tool for when you’re ready to buy a home,” said John Hughes of Falmouth, a financial specialist with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Gaming Commission. He had originally taken the course in 2015 and was back for the course in September so he could maintain his certification to keep him eligible for loan programs aimed at first-time homebuyers.

As to why he wants to become a homeowner, he said, “for stability.”

Ernesto Garcia, who rents an apartment with his fiancée in South Yarmouth, is less sure about purchasing a home, but the classes helped clarify the process. “If you have any doubts, what they teach makes it clearer,” he said.

Wanting to become a homeowner is one of the biggest decisions people will make in their lives. HAC’s First-Time Homebuyer workshop is aimed at not only taking the stress out of the equation, but making it enjoyable for participants.

“This is like the maternity ward… This is fun. People are excited and thinking about buying a house,” Bar said of the workshop. “At the end of every class series, we have people fill out an evaluation form and there has never been anyone who says it wasn’t worth it.”

Register for HAC's First-Time Homebuyer Workshop

Those interested in signing up for a First-Time Homebuyer class can do so by clicking this link. HAC also offers a number of other financial literacy classes including Rebuilding Your Credit; Budgeting; Be a Successful Tenant; Community Resources; and Home Forever. Click here to see a full class listing offered by HAC.  

Tags: HCEC, Homebuyer Education, homeownership, Karin Bar, housing consumer education, First-Time Homebuyer workshop, affordable homeownership, first-time homebuyer

Choose Your Own Affordable Home in Yarmouth

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 @ 01:46 PM

Yarmouth Buydown Photo.jpg

With housing at a premium, becoming a homeowner on Cape Cod continues to be difficult for low- to middle-income wage earners. In Yarmouth, a handful of residents will have an opportunity to achieve that dream through a buydown program HAC is administering for the town.

The program will enable 4 residents to purchase a market rate home at an affordable price. “Inventory has gotten really expensive so a buyer could find a market rate property priced at $289,000 and buy it at $189,000 with a deed restriction,” said Gael Kelleher, HAC’s director of Cape Community Real Estate. “It is the best deal in town. You can’t beat it.”

Qualified applicants must be first-time homebuyers (some exceptions apply), earn 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Barnstable County, and have no more than $75,000 in household assets. To participate in the program, residents must fill out an application and return it to HAC’s offices at 460 West Main Street by Friday, November 17 by 5 pm.

Applications are available at HAC; Yarmouth Town Hall at 1146 Route 28; Yarmouth Housing Authority at 534 Winslow Gray Road; and all Yarmouth public libraries.

Winners will be selected by lottery and will receive a buydown of 35% of the purchase price of a market rate home of their choice, up to $100,000. The following are maximum prices of homes that can be purchased in Yarmouth through this program: $339,000 (four bedroom); $319,000 (three bedroom); $295,000 (two bedroom); and $273,000 (one bedroom).

Any house purchased through the program will be recorded and deed restricted as affordable.

Contact HAC Real Estate Assistant Betsie Rumbaugh at ccre@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 285 for more information on the Yarmouth Buydown Program.

Tags: Gael Kelleher, Cape Community Real Estate, homeownership, affordable homeownership, Yarmouth Buydown Program, Yarmouth

Affordable Condo in Mashpee

Posted by HAC Staff on Fri, Oct 06, 2017 @ 12:17 PM

Mashpee Property Photo-1.jpg

Call this 1-bedroom, 1-bath condominium yours for only $169,000. Located in a quaint, quiet neighborhood in Main Street Village, this condo is in a four-unit building on the upper level.

The condo, which comes with a resale restriction, has two deeded parking spaces, a detached garage, ample basement and closet space, and gas-forced hot water heat.

Eligible applicants must be first-time homebuyers. Incomes may not exceed 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Barnstable County which is equivalent to $75,800 for a one-person household and $86,600 for a two-person household. Household assets must be less than $75,000.

Click here to download an application for this home. And click here to see more affordable homes for sale on Cape Cod. If you have questions about this or other homes, contact HAC Real Estate Assistant Betsie Rumbaugh at ccre@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 285.

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Cape Community Real Estate, Mashpee, homeownership, Betsie Rumbaugh, affordable homeownership, first-time homebuyer

Charming Affordable Chatham Home For Sale

Posted by HAC Staff on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 @ 03:12 PM

Chatham Property Photo-1.jpg

This 3-bedroom, 1-bath Cape-style home at 4 Konuhasset Way in Chatham is currently on the market for $214,500. The purchase of the home comes with an affordable resale restriction. 

Close to local shops and restaurants, this two-foor home is available for first-time homebuyers. Applicants must earn a household income that is at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Barnstable County with household assets of no more than $75,000. 

Eligible AMI is $47,600 for a one-person household; $54,400 for a two-person household; $61,200 for a three-person household; and $68,000 for a four-person household. 

Click here for a lottery application. If you have any questions on this home, contact HAC Real Estate Assistant Betsie Rumbaugh at 508-771-5400, ext. 285 or brumbaugh@haconcapecod.org

HAC also has several affordable homes for sale throughout Cape Cod. Click this link to view a listing of those properties. 

Tags: Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, Cape Community Real Estate, homeownership, real estate listings, Chatham, homes for sale

FSS Graduation Result of Hard Work

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 @ 03:19 PM
Stacey Whittemore FSS Photo-1.jpgHAC FSS Coordinator Jan Nelson (left) with Stacey Whittemore, who recently graduated from the program and became a homeowner on Cape Cod. 

When some clients graduate from the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, it can be a large celebration with a number of HAC staff in attendance. Others, like Cotuit’s Stacey Whittemore, opt for something more low key.

That did not make the moment any less meaningful when Whittemore and her son Connor received a $9,061.84 check at the end of July from Jan Nelson, who manages the FSS program for HAC.

With tears in her eyes, an emotional Whittemore spoke about the impact that FSS has had on her since she first entered it a little more than a year and a half ago. “You helped me out tremendously,” Whittemore told Nelson.

With the support of Nelson, FSS clients find ways to increase their income so they can move off of public assistance. As one’s income increases, their rent increases. The difference between the new monthly rent and the old rent is placed into an escrow savings account that clients can access, and use as they deem fit, upon completion of FSS.

Whittemore was able to accumulate more than $4,000; she received another $5,000 in federal funds because she was giving up her Section 8 voucher and becoming a homeowner, moving from her Mashpee home into what she called, “my forever home” in Cotuit.

Nelson called Whittemore, who has two jobs, including a full-time one as an overnight dispatcher for a towing company, “a hard worker” something that was witnessed when she boosted her credit score from roughly 500 to over 700 during her time in the FSS program.

While she was looking forward to decorating her new home for Halloween and Christmas, Whittemore said, the most important aspect is, “just giving him [my son] the security. It’s something I never had as a child.”

To have that kind of security on Cape Cod is the icing on the cake. “It is so beautiful here,” Whittemore said. “I’m pretty content to call this place my home.”

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Jan Nelson, Family Self Sufficiency, FSS, homeownership, Stacey Whittemore

FSS Program Helps Family Find Perfect Home

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 @ 05:30 PM
Amy Gregoire-Edited2.jpgAmy Gregoire with two of her children, Josie (left) and Susie, at her FSS graduation. Amy and her husband recently moved into a new Habitat for Humanity home in West Yarmouth. 

When Amy Gregoire first met HAC’s Jan Nelson in 2013, the thought of her ever becoming self-sufficient, let alone a homeowner was far-fetched. “I had a subsidized apartment and felt I was so in over my head, I didn’t think I’d ever have the money to move out of there,” Gregoire said. “Jan calmly said, ‘You can do it. If other people can do it, you can do it.’... I know I wouldn’t be sitting here with three jobs and a new house if it wasn’t for [Jan].”

With two of her three children by her side, Gregoire made the statement at HAC’s offices when the agency recently celebrated her graduation from the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. Managed by Nelson, the program provides a road map for those like Gregoire, who have a Section 8 voucher, to increase their income so they can move off of public assistance.

Over the past five years, Gregoire was able to do just that, working three part-time jobs and enrolling at Bristol Community College where she’s studying to be an occupational therapy assistant.

Her busy schedule got even busier this past year when she and her husband Torey spent their weekends helping to build the Habitat for Humanity home they moved into in May. The Gregoires, which include their three daughters Lucie, Josie and Susie, were one of six families selected for newly built Habitat homes on Virginia Street in West Yarmouth.

As part of the FSS program, Gregoire was able to accumulate almost $3,000 in escrow savings and another $5,000 she received for giving up her Section 8 voucher and becoming a homeowner. A portion of that money went towards closing costs as well as some furniture for their new home.

As she described that new home to HAC staff, there was a sense of joy in her voice. “It is less than a mile from the ocean,” Gregoire said. “It is in a nice little neighborhood… It’s on a quiet cul-de-sac. It couldn’t be more perfect.”

Help Families Like This

Tags: Jan Nelson, Family Self Sufficiency, FSS, homeownership, Amy Gregoire

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, Barnstable County HOME Program, Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program

FSS Graduate One Step Closer to Homeownership

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 @ 01:08 PM
Amy Feren Jan Nelson-3.jpgJan Nelson (left), HAC's FSS Coordinator, with Amy Feren at her graduation in October. 

Being a single mother is not easy. Mashpee’s Amy Feren can attest to that as she raises three children of her own. “There is no easy way around it,” she said. “You get up, make them breakfast, bring them to school and pick them up at the end of the day. You stick to a routine and do it all over again, every day.

“The weather doesn’t matter. The price of gas doesn’t matter. Life still goes on,” she continued. “It is very challenging with one income to make ends meet. It’s more difficult trying to accomplish what a two-income household has.”

Thanks to HAC’s help, overcoming those challenges has become a little easier. It started when Feren received a Section 8 voucher, allowing her to afford an apartment on Cape Cod. “Without one, my kids wouldn’t have a home,” Feren said. “I needed it because the rental prices are so high [here].”

Five years ago, Feren enrolled in HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program which provides incentives for those with vouchers to take steps to increase their income and focus on career development, all in an effort to achieve self-sufficiency.

Celebrating Feren's FSS Achievements

At a ceremony at HAC in October, staff gathered to celebrate Feren’s graduation from FSS. There was cake and congratulations, but the biggest gift was a check for $11,991.71, representing the money she had saved over the past five years. As part of the FSS program, any increase in earned income is placed into an escrow account participants can access upon graduation.

Feren, who earned a paralegal certificate while in the program and is currently employed as an office manager in Plymouth, plans on using that money to purchase a home. If she does so in the next two years and gives up her housing voucher, she will receive an additional $5,000 from the state that she can use towards the down payment, closing costs or post-purchase expenses.

When asked why it is so important to become a homeowner, Feren replied, “to be self-reliant, to be self-sufficient. That is exactly what this program stands for and I think it is everybody’s dream. Every working person who contributes to society, I think they want to own their own home.”

Soon that will not be a dream for Feren, but a reality. She credited Jan Nelson, who manages the FSS program for HAC, for making that possible. “My life has consisted of a lot of ups and downs and some worse than others, but with your kindness and guidance I now have the tools to continue forward in life,” she wrote to Jan in an email following the ceremony. “You have been my one constant through my many, many years working with HAC and the Section 8 program.” 

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: Section 8, Jan Nelson, Family Self Sufficiency, FSS, homeownership, Amy Feren

HAC Turns Dreams of Homeownership into a Reality

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 @ 12:23 PM
Troy Beth and Julian Smith Edited-2.jpgTroy and Beth Smith with their 17-year-old son Julian. Now that they are homeowners, Beth said, "I feel like we're a part of the community. I feel like we really belong on Cape Cod." 

This past summer, Troy, Beth and Julian Smith sat outside in their Centerville backyard watching “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” playing on a movie projector. They were joined by friends and family and there was music playing, a fire pit blazing and tiki lamps burning, adding warmth to the festive gathering.

It was an idyllic setting, evidence that the Smiths have settled into this place called home. “For now, it’s our little thing. Our little moment,” Troy said of the summer movie night which, in its second year, is becoming a family tradition.

It is a moment made possible by HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC). Between the two of them, Troy and Beth took HCEC’s First-Time Homebuyer workshop three times.

The couple, who have been together for 32 years and married for 28, had briefly lived on Cape Cod in the mid-80s before moving to Boston. In 2001, they returned to the Cape with their then-two-year-old son Julian. “We loved Cape Cod and always knew we were coming back,” Troy said.

They had originally planned to rent for a year and then buy a house. “We didn’t realize it would be a 14-year odyssey,” Troy said.

The initial step towards homeownership was taking HAC’s class geared towards first-time homebuyers. “The first time we took it was great,” said Beth. “It showed us we weren’t ready… It helped us fix our credit score, plan accordingly for what might lie ahead and we started thinking realistically about savings and investments and what it means to be a homeowner.”

A little more than a year later, Beth opted to take the class once again. And Troy took the online course.

A Better Understanding
Taking the class multiple times allowed the Smiths a chance to understand what questions to ask Cheryl Kramer, HAC’s HCEC manager, as they moved forward with their dreams of homeownership. “No one tells you the exact things that are going to happen and all the steps involved until you take the class,” Beth said. “Then you meet building inspectors, insurance people and bankers. It seems overwhelming at first, but when you put the pieces together, it’s doable if you’re organized.”

After finishing the second round of classes, the Smiths

started looking for a home in Barnstable in early 2015. They eventually found a two-bedroom ranch that happened to be just one block over from the house they had been renting the past 14 years.

Thanks to the help of HAC’s Karin Bar, the couple qualified for $10,000 in down payment assistance that went towards the purchase of their home. HAC administers the funds through Barnstable County’s HOME Program.

When they finally closed on the home last year, Beth said, “we screamed and yelled and cried.”

“We had always hoped and dreamed of buying a home,” Troy said.

“But we never thought it would be a reality,” Beth said.

Today, the Smiths could not be happier and they give a lot of credit to HAC. “We knew everyone at HAC was going to help us and they did every single time we called,” said Troy.

As to what owning a home means, Troy said, “there is a certain degree of pride involved that you accomplished something. It was a difficult journey to buy a house and some people don’t make it or quit, or do it foolishly and have their home foreclosed on. But I’m grateful we listened to the advice HAC gave us. It paid off tremendously. We wake up happy every day.”

To learn more about HAC's First-Time Homebuyer Workshop, click this link. And to help families like the Smiths experience the joy of homeownership on Cape Cod and the Islands, click this link

Tags: HCEC, homeownership, First-Time Homebuyer workshop, Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program

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