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

Angel House Clients Build Life Skill Competencies

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 @ 10:52 AM
Angel House-17.jpgHAC HCEC Manager Cheryl Kramer (fourth from left) with several of the Angel House clients who took her most recent financial literacy classes. 

Last fall, a client at Angel House took a series of financial literacy classes taught by HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) Manager Cheryl Kramer. 

When Kramer brought that series – Creating a Budget, Rebuilding Your Credit, and Be a Successful Tenant – back to the shelter in June, that same client opted to take them again. Kramer said the client told her, “I’m so glad you’re back… Last fall I was focused on having my baby and not really focused on what you were teaching. I’m coming to the end of my time at Angel House and I really need to hear what you have to say.” 

It is one example of why these classes are so important, especially for the mothers at Angel House, who are dealing with the trauma of homelessness, overcoming addiction, and learning how to be a proper parent to their child. “Having the class available more than once, they’re able to build on what they learned the first time,” Kramer said. 

On average, 10 clients took part in each of the classes Kramer offered this summer. In August, she awarded 19 certificates of completion to the clients; some received multiple certificates because they took more than one of the classes. 

“One of the greatest values is that this is a concrete way for them to build their life skill competencies,” shelter director Lin Rohr said. “We do a lot of stuff on healing, recovery and parenting. This teaches them how to do a budget. If you spend everything you make in your first week, how are you going to eat?” 

Amanda, a 23-year-old client at Angel House, said the classes provided her with basic skills that she had overlooked or had no knowledge about. “I never knew anything about my credit,” she said. “And it made me open up my eyes about a lot of things like the money I spend on Dunkin’ Donuts alone.” 

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Rohr said. “If you spend $5 a day for coffee, that’s $35 a week.” 

Another client, Cassandra, admitted she has poor credit and was considering filing for bankruptcy. Kramer “showed me that is not my only option,” Cassandra said. “Now I’m almost amped up about it. I can fix it. It’s not too late.”

Cassandra is one of nine Angel House clients who plan on meeting with Kramer one-on-one to focus on their individual financial needs. “That is a huge thing she is offering,” Rohr said. “If they had to pay for that kind of outside support that is not doable for a lot of them. It’s a wonderful gift she [Kramer] is giving them.” 

In October, Kramer will return to Angel House to offer the classes to clients again. “It is part of the [Angel House] program now,” Kramer said. “When they come to that class, they are awake, they are vested and come with good questions… They are not just there because they have to be which makes it more fun to teach. And I make sure I’m giving them the info they want to hear and need to hear.”

HAC Receives CCYP Grant

For the second straight year, HAC has been the recipient of a grant from the CCYP's Giving Circle Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation. This grant will allow HAC to provide the following classes for free, for a limited time, on a first-come, first-served basis: 

Tags: HCEC, Family Shelter, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, Lin Rohr, housing consumer education, financial literacy

Editorial: Threats to HCEC Funding

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

Galazzi_HACbeat (2017).jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAC Stresses Need for State Funding of Vital Programs

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 @ 01:26 PM
RHN Edited Photo.jpgHAC's Cassi Danzl (from left), Liz Belcher, CEO Alisa Galazzi and Laura Reckford with State Representative Will Crocker. 

HAC’s leadership visited the State House last month, pushing for funding of programs that help those most in need on Cape Cod and the Islands.

The HAC contingent was there as part of the annual Regional Housing Network (RHN) of Massachusetts’ legislative briefing, a day that gives member agencies of the housing network an opportunity to meet with their legislative delegation to discuss the needs and priorities of those they serve.

HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi was joined by her colleagues Cassi Danzl, Liz Belcher, Laura Reckford and Noah Hoffenberg, in driving up to Boston, where they were able to meet with State Representatives Will Crocker (R-Centerville) and Dylan Fernandes (D-Woods Hole) as well as State Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) in offering their insights into the housing needs of those on Cape Cod and the Islands.

The group urged continued support of the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and HomeBASE programs, which provide assistance to those experiencing a housing crisis. Last year, HAC was able to serve 279 families and 134 individuals who were in crisis and in danger of becoming homeless.

HAC staffers also placed an emphasis on funding Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCEC). HAC is one of nine HCECs throughout Massachusetts that conducts intake, housing search, foreclosure and reverse mortgage counseling, and financial literacy workshops for low- and middle-income residents in the region. In 2016, HAC’s HCEC served more than 3,700 people.

Last month’s meetings took place as the state House and Senate begin deliberations over Governor Charles D. Baker’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

Tags: HCEC, HomeBASE, Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, housing consumer education, Alisa Galazzi, RAFT, Residential Assistance For Families in Transition

Cassi Danzl Leads Family and Individual Services

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 @ 11:25 AM
Cassi Edited-1.jpgCassi Danzl joined HAC in January. She oversees the agency's Family and Individual Services Department which includes housing search, homelessness prevention, HAC's financial literacy workshops and homeless outreach efforts throughout Cape Cod. 

One of the first things visitors to Cassi Danzl’s office at HAC will notice are the framed pictures that decorate the walls. There are photos of Greece, Scotland and even some of Cape Cod, all taken by Danzl.

Travel has been a huge part of Danzl’s life ever since she was a child. “I’m originally from Chicago,” she said. “My dad worked for a railroad so we moved from Chicago to Minnesota. Then we returned to Chicago, then Pennsylvania and then back to Chicago, where I graduated high school.”

The common thread from her globetrotting adventures has been volunteerism. “I volunteered a lot as a kid,” she said. “We grew up doing work trips to different parts of the United States in Alabama, Kentucky, on a Native American reservation in South Dakota. We were always active in terms of helping.”

So it should come as no surprise that Danzl, HAC’s new director of Family and Individual Services, chose a career in the social services. Following her high school graduation, she received a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Indianapolis in 2007 before earning her master’s degree in counseling psychology from Assumption College in Worcester in 2010.

While at Assumption, Danzl started working as a case manager at a residential facility for intellectually disabled adults for Arbour Counseling Services in Worcester. Over the next four years, she remained in Central Massachusetts, becoming a mental health clinician – she is a certified mental health counselor – and then a senior site coordinator, overseeing a community-based program that provided intensive therapy for families with children under the age of 21 who had significant emotional and mental health issues.

Moves to the Cape

Roughly three years ago, Danzl moved to Cape Cod to become the center director for Arbour Community Services’ outpatient mental health clinic in West Yarmouth.

She arrived at HAC in January and currently oversees a staff of 11 employees. She manages HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) which includes intake counselor Liz Belcher, who is typically the first point of contact for clients who walk through HAC’s doors seeking assistance with their housing issues. The programs in Danzl’s department include housing search; homelessness prevention; permanent supportive housing; outreach to the homeless living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod; financial literacy workshops; and the agency’s housing counseling efforts on Martha’s Vineyard.

Under her purview, HAC serves a range of clients, from those most in need to people looking to purchase their first home. “I think it’s easy to see how impactful we can be, from prevention where $200 can change someone’s housing situation to our first-time homebuyer’s classes,” she said. “We’re dealing with both ends of the spectrum. It is pretty broad.”

One of the lessons Danzl said she has learned from all her travels is that different parts of the world struggle with different issues. “Here on the Cape, the housing stock and affordable housing is obviously an issue,” she said.

She is excited to help HAC play a role in solving those issues, tying into her goals as a child when she knew she wanted to pursue a career that allowed her to help others. “Existentially, my goal is that when I leave or die, that I’ve left something different than what it was when I started, hopefully, in a positive way,” she said. “I don’t want to just be a visitor while I’m here. I want to be invested in making a difference.”

Tags: HCEC, homelessness, homeless prevention, housing consumer education, financial literacy, Family and Individual Services Department, homeless outreach, Cassi Danzl

HCEC Classes a Gift to Angel House Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Feb 03, 2017 @ 11:17 AM
HCEC Angel House Edited-1.jpgHCEC Manager Cheryl Kramer (third from left) with several of the Angel House mothers who have benefitted from her financial literacy classes. 

Over the course of 45 minutes in the middle of November, Cheryl Kramer, HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) manager, walked seven mothers staying at Angel House shelter in Hyannis, through the nuances of one’s credit and how best to rebuild it.

Kramer began with an explanation of credit scores. She then spoke about ways to build credit. And she followed with the importance of paying off debt, budgeting, types of credit cards and how to read a credit report.

She was offering simple, but practical advice for women who have been homeless and have struggled with addiction, and are now taking steps to move forward with their lives.

It was part of an ongoing effort by Kramer to bring three HCEC workshops – Creating a Budget, Rebuilding Your Credit and Be a Successful Tenant – to the shelter. She initially did so last summer and reintroduced the series of three classes to Angel House clients in October, November and December.

“You want to make sure your housing is protected for you and your family,” Kramer told the women during the November session on credit. “So first, pay your rent. Then your utilities. If you’re working, then you have to have transportation, whether you’re using the bus or getting a ride with a friend or you have your own car… If you can’t get to work, then you lose your job and then you lose your housing. It has a trickle-down effect.”

Planning for when the clients leave shelter, Kramer encouraged the women to find ways to reduce their financial burdens by utilizing local food pantries for groceries and agencies like HAC for assistance in purchasing Christmas gifts for their children.

After the November session, several of the mothers talked about how Kramer’s classes have impacted them. “I get worried because my daughter is due in January and where I kind of messed up my credit, I want to be able to financially support her,” Nicole said. “What Cheryl teaches us, it is very helpful and makes you feel hopeful that there is a way out.”

Jocelyn, another client, said the sessions have given her a roadmap to pay off her debt and build up her credit “so that I can eventually buy a house. I have three children so my goal is to eventually buy a house so I don’t have to keep moving around from place to place.”

And for Hayley, the classes are just another example of how Angel House has helped her. “It is teaching me how to be the best mother I can,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this place I wouldn’t have my son. I’m definitely grateful to be here because it gives me time to work on myself.”

In December, Cheryl Kramer attended the Citizens’ Housing And Planning Association (CHAPA) Homeownership Collaborative meeting in Boston, where she was presented a certificate recognizing HAC’s dedication and commitment to continually providing homebuyer education services to low- and moderate-income households since the Collaborative’s inception in 1996. To learn more about HAC's Housing Consumer Education Center offerings or to sign up for a class, click here

Tags: HCEC, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, housing consumer education, financial literacy

HCEC Teaches Shelter Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 @ 01:56 PM
HCEC_Angel_House_Photo-1.jpgCheryl Kramer (front center) poses with her HCEC students from Angel House.

A funny thing happened at the end of May when HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) manager Cheryl Kramer finished up a budgeting and credit education workshop at the Angel House shelter. “They wanted me to come back and teach our Be a Smart Tenant class,” she said.

It is just one sign that the mothers at Angel House are embracing steps to move forward in a positive direction with their lives. Wanting to assist in that effort, Kramer returned and taught the tenancy class which covers everything from renter’s insurance to working with landlords to how to handle an eviction.

In the middle of June, 12 mothers who took the Be a Smart Tenant workshop were handed certificates of completion from Kramer. Afterwards, they spoke about how it benefitted them as they prepare for their ultimate goal of moving out of shelter and into permanent housing. “I feel more confident about moving on from here,” said Victoria Chase.

While HAC has long offered these types of classes to the general public, it has only recently begun to bring them into its shelters. Clients at the NOAH Shelter and Angel House, which are both in Hyannis, are now benefitting from the workshops Kramer has been teaching for years.

Over the past five years, she has taught the Be a Smart Tenant class at both The Village at Cataumet in Bourne and Carriage House in North Falmouth. Last fall, she brought a workshop focusing on budgeting and rebuilding your credit to NOAH, following that up with two additional ones earlier this year.

The curriculum for that class teaches students the components of a budget, how to write a budget, how to review one’s budget, how to fix items in one’s credit report and how to improve and sustain a credit score.

“It has been amazing,” Kramer said of teaching these workshops to the region’s most needy. “The NOAH Shelter guests are so vulnerable, yet are so open to learning, as are the Angel House women. The women at Angel House are so vested and so interested in this. It is so evident they have a desire to learn to do things differently… they are not there because they have to be there. They are there because they want to be.”

Following the Angel House graduation in May, Kramer spoke about the importance of bringing these HCEC workshops to those in shelter, noting that it helps them succeed in securing housing and work. “To know you’ve helped them do something different for their future and for their family is just a fun process,” Kramer said of the rewards she has reaped from teaching in HAC’s homeless shelters.

Click here to learn more about the financial literacy classes offered through HAC's Housing Consumer Education Center. Thanks to a grant we received from the CCYP Giving Circle of The Cape Cod Foundation, we are offering three of those classes for free, for a limited time. 

Tags: HCEC, NOAH Shelter, Angel House, Cheryl Kramer, housing consumer education

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