Want to find out the latest about HAC? Then you're in the right place. Here you will find stories about the people and programs that make HAC unique. You can start by clicking on our blog which features articles from our monthly newsletter HACbeat as well as stand-alone pieces for the Internet. Click here to read current and past PDFs of HACbeat. If you want to subscribe to digital HACbeat, simply put your email address into the box in the left sidebar and click subscribe. 

For more in-depth research on housing issues facing Cape Cod and the Islands, check out HAC's Housing Research page which features white papers published by HAC's Housing Information Department. 

Scroll down to read archives featuring HAC in the news. 

HAC in the News

At Cape budgeting class, keeping a watch on what matters

Posted on Wed, Apr 17, 2013

Cheryl Kramer eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at work. She and her family plan a vacation several months or longer in advance and skip trips some years. Kramer meticulously analyzes what she spends and saves.

During the class on budgeting she teaches at Housing Assistance Corp., she extols the virtue of people being honest with themselves. Write down those $5 sandwiches or that $8 glass of wine. Keep track of where the money's going.

Remember the larger goals, she often tells those that attend her class. The same principle applies whether it's buying a house, keeping the house, getting out of credit card debt or making car payments.

"You are the one to decide," she said. "You have to have that commitment."

Kramer, manager of the housing consumer education center at HAC, doesn't urge people to follow in her specific financial footprints. She doesn't tell people how much to set aside for entertainment, clothes or any other category.

"I don't teach anything with a wagging finger," Kramer said, who leads other classes as well including rebuilding your credit and first-time home buying.

Instead, Kramer focuses on how setting up a budget and being cognizant of spending can help someone reach a bigger goal.

"Everybody has to think a little proactively about the process," she said.

HAC holds the free budgeting class about four times a year, she said. The next one is scheduled for June 24.

Often, people don't think about their small purchases, like a daily coffee, and how they add up when not keeping a budget. By detailing what one spends money on, people can visually understand how much those small purchases are costing them.

"Those couple dollars add up to a lot of money for a lot of folks," she said.

During a recent class, Kramer said its good to tell other people your long-term financial goals, such as buying a new car or paying for college tuition.

"I think it's good to share your dreams," she said. "They hold you accountable."

Some people overextend themselves to save money or pay off debts. That can leave them scrambling to find funds for everyday living or paying for emergencies.

"Don't set that bar so high," she said during the recent class. "Don't overburden yourself."

Marstons Mills resident Jill Quin and her daughter Ali Quin were in Kramer's class last week.

Jill Quin and her husband, Jack, faced "a little rough stretch" seven years ago after he lost his full-time job as a manufacturer's sales rep.

The pair sold a vehicle, stopped going out to eat and cut other costs. "We basically stopped spending," said Jill Quin, a real estate appraiser.

Last year, the couple paid off the last of their debts beyond their regular mortgage payments.

Now, Jill Quin said, the challenge is balancing saving with spending on things that add to life, such as vacations.

"It's finding what makes you comfortable," she said.


Written by:

Tags: HAC Workshops, HCEC, Homebuyer Education, housing assistance corporation, Creating a budget

HAC featured in Cape & Plymouth Business Giving Guide

Posted on Fri, Apr 06, 2012


GG2012 cover 160wCape & Plymouth Business magazine's annual Giving Guide showcases nonprofit organizations in the region. Robert Viamari, co-publisher of the magazine, says, "The cooperative relationship between the business sector and the not-for-profit sector is critical. Charitable organizations rely on the support of businesses, from financial backing to volunteerism, and businesses will only be part of a thriving community with these groups to encourage and assist the population. A vibrant and vital region benefits us all, and these nonprofit organizations are doing tremendous work toward that goal -- but they can't do it alone." 

To see the Giving Guide's presentation on HAC, click here.  The two-page spread highlights HAC's 2012 goals, fundraising events and volunteer opportunities.

Tags: housing, business

'The art of helping' - Cornell students spend week with HAC

Posted on Mon, Apr 02, 2012

DSC 0261

The worst part about being homeless is changing schools and moving from place to place, according to Omayra Perez-Rivera, 13.

"It's a little bit not comfortable," the otherwise confident young teen said nervously, as she and others worked on an art project spotlighting childhood homelessness on Cape Cod.

Inside a barn turned educational art studio at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, seven students from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., worked alongside Perez-Rivera and families who live in shelters run by Housing Assistance Corp.

Read more in the Cape Cod Times:

Tags: cotuit center for the arts, housing assistance corporation

Tenants left without housing alternatives

Posted on Sun, Oct 02, 2011

WEST YARMOUTH — Somehow Alexander Pessarodo, his wife and two little boys have made living in a motel room work for their little family.

But now that they are being evicted from their room at West Yarmouth Lodgings on Route 28, Pessarodo, who works construction and as a night cook, admits he is scared.

He and his wife, a dishwasher, can't afford to pay the apartment market rate.

Rental agents told him less-expensive off-season housing may be available in November, but his family would have to move out in May when tourists and seasonal workers return to the Cape and bump up rental prices.

"Right now, it's kind of hard," Pessarodo said. The clock is ticking on his housing search.

Pessarodo and other long-term residents of the motel received 30-day eviction notices Sept. 14, days before a Barnstable Superior Court judge found motel owner Harry Miller in contempt for continuing to use his motels as apartments.

In January the town of Yarmouth won a court case against Miller that upheld a town bylaw limiting motel stays to 30 consecutive days or 90 days during a three-month period.

Town officials gave Miller until May 3 to remove tenants from West Yarmouth Lodgings and the Cavalier Motel, also on Route 28.

When that date came and went, they took Miller to court. On Sept. 21, Judge Christopher Muse put the motels into receivership and placed an attachment on both motels, as well as the Seagull Beach Motel, also owned by Miller.

The losers appear to be the tenants, many of whom appear to have few other housing options.

"It was really a shock for me," Pessarodo said. His oldest son just started kindergarten in Yarmouth.

'You can't afford to live here'

To understand the motel crisis, people need to understand that high rental housing costs are putting regular apartments out of the reach of many low-income families, housing advocates say.

A two-bedroom apartment on the Cape will cost a tenant more than $1,000, not counting utilities, said Allison Rice, vice president of the nonprofit Housing Assistance Corp.

The same type of housing in New Bedford or Fall River costs about $650 a month, which is why HAC often counsels people to cross the bridges in search of rental units, Rice said.

"Nine times out of 10 the answer is, 'You can't afford to live here,'" Rice said.

As far as subsidized housing is concerned, there is a waiting list of more than five years for programs such as Section 8 rental vouchers, she said.

"If you're getting on a housing list now, don't hold your breath," Rice said.

She said the number of Section 8 vouchers — of which her organization administers 700 — has remained stagnant since the Clinton years, even as folks at the bottom of the income ladder increasingly get squeezed out of housing options.

People end up living in motels because they can scrape together the $250 per week it typically costs to live there, which usually includes utilities, cable and water, Rice said.

"They can come up with that each week," she said. "That's something that can be managed."

First and last month's rent and security deposits also work to price low-income people out of rental housing.

Money running low

Michael Macura, who lives at West Yarmouth Lodgings with his wife, needs $2,400 to cover the cost of first and last month's rent and security for a studio apartment in Hyannis.

The cost of the studio over a garage is $800 a month, which is only $50 more than what he pays at West Yarmouth Lodgings.

But Macura, who lives on Social Security disability payments, doesn't have the savings it would require to secure the apartment.

Help is available, in theory.

HAC, a nonprofit based in Hyannis, has a homelessness prevention fund to help people deal with these costs.

But it's running dangerously low, Rice said.

Two years ago, the state stopped providing matching funds. Now the program depends mainly on local churches to raise $3,000 to $4,000, which is generous of them but not nearly enough to handle the need, Rice said.

Without access to these funds, Macura would prefer to stay put in his tidy motel room with his white-painted bureau, coffee table, medications and oxygen equipment.

"I'm scared," he said. "I don't want to leave."

Robert Wilds, president of Miller's company, Admiralty Lodgings, criticized the town of Yarmouth for participating in what he called a "witch hunt" against Miller.

"I don't think the town has been very accommodating at all," he said. "They have no place to put (the tenants) and they know it."

Approximately 100 tenants live in West Yarmouth Lodgings, the Cavalier Motel and the Seagull Beach Motel, Wilds said. Some of the tenants are seasonal employees who are returning soon to their home countries.

Seven to eight other motels in Yarmouth are being used as apartments and they are not facing the town's wrath, Wilds said.

Not enough options

Driving down Route 28 in West Yarmouth, it's easy to see what he means.

Many of the people taking in the sunshine in the parking lots and balconies of neighboring motels do not appear to be tourists.

They call each other by name and prop open their doors with chairs. People propel themselves in wheelchairs; mothers push babies in strollers.

Clients in these other motels stay for 29 days and then either re-register under a different name or leave to stay with a friend for a night or two before returning, Wilds said.

Miller's problem was that he admitted outright that he provided housing for low-income people and planned to continue doing so, Wilds said.

"They have no other options. That's the sad part," said Debbie Bellows, manager of West Yarmouth Lodgings.

But compared with other motels in the area, Miller's employees run a tight ship, she said.

Bellows runs criminal record checks on new tenants to make sure they do not have outstanding warrants, and she patrols the grounds with a fistful of keys like the chatelaine of a castle keep.

The only one she actually uses is a small skeleton key that allows her to check rooms for contraband hot plates.

While she's more than happy to evict a rowdy visitor, Bellows understands perhaps better than anyone what draws people to motel life.

She lives on the premises in an apartment with her boyfriend.

"The jobs are not paying enough," Bellows said. Motel tenants often bounce in and out of rental housing, falling back on single rooms when they can no longer pay the utility bills or afford both groceries and rent.

"Some of these people have been evicted (from rental housing) five times," Bellows said. "It's really starting to irritate me that people don't understand."

Many motel tenants have the kind of low-paying and insecure jobs that are the first to be laid off in a recession and the last hired when employers are looking for new help.

Redevelopment plans in limbo

Jeremy Chipman, 22, who lives at West Yarmouth Lodgings with his fiancee and his grandfather, said he has applied for more than 40 jobs in the past year.

Motel tenants also include people on Social Security disability payments and families who are a few dollars ahead of qualifying for homeless shelters such as the Village at Cataumet, Rice said.

The rooming houses of Hyannis that used to accommodate people living on the fringes of society are mainly a thing of the past, she said.

The sad circumstances of motel tenancy so disturbed Brian Braginton-Smith, chairman of the Yarmouth Board of Health, that he proposed purchasing three of Miller's motels and converting some of them into affordable housing.

He said he has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with the intention of converting 35 motel units at West Yarmouth Lodgings into 28 units of affordable rental housing.

Another part of his plan was to enfold the Cavalier into a proposed South Yarmouth village center on Route 28 and create both workforce and market-rate housing there.

But Muse's decision to place the motels into receivership has jeopardized his plans, Braginton-Smith said.

A 2006 Yarmouth town bylaw allows motels to be redeveloped as housing units, but the motels need to continue to generate income in the meantime to make his project possible, Braginton-Smith said.

The plan is now "in limbo" and possibly "untenable," he said.

Size limitations

A Barnstable attorney has been given the authority to run Admiralty Lodgings and to use the rent money paid after May 3 to create a fund to assist current occupants, Yarmouth Assistant Town Administrator Peter Johnson-Staub said.

Miller could have sought the help of a town-established fund to convert the motels into licensed rental units, but he never did, Johnson-Staub said.

"How are we ever going to change things if we don't start somewhere? We're trying to convert this (Miller's) property," but the town is not the owner, Johnson-Staub said.

With room sizes of 200 to 300 square feet, West Yarmouth Lodgings would need an upgrade to meet the town bylaw that requires living space to consist of at least 400 square feet, Bellows said.

But the rooms are livable, she insisted.

Several years ago, Miller renovated the motel units, installing kitchen cabinets, sinks, microwaves and three-quarter size refrigerators in each room.

"He fixed them really nice. It's like a little studio-type thing," Bellows said.

One room was converted into a common kitchen with stovetops and large microwaves, while a unit a few doors down serves as the laundry room.

"I really feel like we did a service so (people) can have a roof over their head," Bellows said.

'What happens after that?'

More legal proceedings may be on the horizon, Johnson-Staub said.

Tenants could choose to ignore the eviction notices Miller issued last month, Johnson-Staub said. "What happens after that?"

On Oct. 26, Muse is scheduled to hear whether Miller has approved of working out a restitution plan for tenants who have been making payments since May 3, the date they were all supposed to be out.

Yarmouth town attorney Bruce Gilmore is enraged that Miller never showed up in court on the contempt charges, sending in officers of his company instead.

He has called for Miller's arrest.

Bellows is prepared for a fight.

"I'll sit here," she said. "I'll be the last one out. I'll probably be on TV in handcuffs. I care about the bylaws, but I don't want to put these people out on the road."

HAC employee is an 'Angel'

Posted on Sat, Oct 01, 2011

Faith Woodcock was honored as an ARC Angel.

Big Fix made positive impact from tragic event

Posted on Mon, Sep 12, 2011

FORESTDALE — Standing in the kitchen of her home, Maureen Lemire posited that, if Sept. 11 memorialized buildings that came crashing down, maybe it was fitting that on this day something should be built.

On Sunday, Lemire watched as more than a dozen volunteers built a ramp and deck that would allow her disabled daughter, Cayla, 21, to get into a new addition specially constructed for her.

"This has been incredible, to have all these people here," Lemire said.

"They are great people."

This is the second year of The Big Fix, a one-day event in which Hyannis-based Housing Assistance Corp. organizes volunteers to focus on projects in one town that help disabled and senior citizens with home repairs that improve their quality of life.

Last year, HAC focused on Barnstable. This year, the nonprofit agency, which assists Cape residents in finding and staying in healthy, safe and stable homes, decided to concentrate their efforts in Sandwich.

Having The Big Fix happen on Sept. 11, which had been designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance, helped bolster the memory that the decade-old tragedy was also a day when Americans came together to help one another, as individuals and as a nation.

Earlier this summer, HAC staffers were discussing what projects to do this year when Julie Wake, director of marketing, received a phone call from Cayla's grandmother. The contractor who had been building an addition onto the Lemire house had walked away from the job. That plea was followed by a letter from Cayla, a second-year student at Northeastern University, taking courses online.

"It was a very honest, beautiful letter," Wake recalled. "I forwarded it to the rest of the team. We decided in the next couple of hours we would make it happen."

Cayla was born with a form of muscular dystrophy that requires her to be in a motorized wheelchair all day. But she also has a ready smile, an easy, patient disposition and alert mind.

Despite suffering a setback three years ago that had her hospitalized for 100 days at Massachusetts General Hospital and resulted in her having to breathe through a surgically implanted hole in her neck, she remained undaunted. Cayla graduated from Sandwich High School and aspires to a degree in psychology with hopes to work in that field or in social work.

Sunday, her hopes were concentrated on seeing her new addition, built with a special federal loan program, for the first time. Although the contractor left it unfinished, it's easy to visualize her sitting room, bedroom and a specially constructed bathroom she can access with her motorized wheelchair instead of being carried in.

"There are a lot of us in the profession who like to give back," said Neal Pratt, a custom builder who does a lot of volunteer work for HAC. Private contractors, AmeriCorps volunteers and HAC staffers swarmed over the ramp and yard, pouring concrete, cutting posts, screwing down decking. By early afternoon, they had the ramp nearly built.

Wake said the response from the building community was fantastic, with national companies chipping in; Home Depot gave them a $3,000 grant for materials. Town officials in Sandwich and Bourne also helped smooth the way, with expedited permitting and special access to disposal areas for construction waste.

"Meeting Cayla made it much more personal, knowing she will be able to get into her (addition)," said Rich Bryant, a senior project manager for Cape Associates Inc. of Eastham.

How gift cards create good news

Posted on Wed, Aug 31, 2011

Cape Codders are reaching out to help neighbors in need. The Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness, or DYECH, has been working on this problem for the past 15 years.

When a family on Cape Cod is facing a financial crisis because of an accident, illness, job loss or other unforeseen event, it is often impossible to meet rent or mortgage payments. If a family is given assistance at this time, homelessness can be prevented. DYECH raises money to provide these funds and works with the Housing Assistance Corp. to help the family. As we are all aware, state funds that used to be part of this effort have been cut, and the prevention project depends solely on organizations like DYECH to help families in crisis.

The good news is that the people on Cape Cod are recognizing the problem and responding generously. Since June of 2010, DYECH has raised $89,000. Housing Assistance reports that with this money, 187 families have been able to stay in their own homes despite the setback that threatened the stability of their lives.

This is one of their stories.

The family consisted of two working parents and three children. The mother fell, broke her pelvis, and was unable to work for several months. Even though she had health insurance, the expenses of copays, medication and loss of wages meant that the family fell behind on their rent. They applied to HAC for assistance, and funds for back payment of the rent were provided. The mother has now returned to her job, the crisis has been averted and the family is safe at home.

DYECH raises most of its funds through the sale of gift cards to local grocery and other participating stores. More and more people are purchasing these cards and finding satisfaction in knowing that they are helping to prevent homelessness on Cape Cod. Sales of the gift cards have almost doubled this year in Yarmouth.

Anyone on Cape Cod who shops at a grocery store, CVS or Dunkin' Donuts can become part of this prevention project. It costs nothing to participate, except your good will. A person receives full value for the card at the store.

The gift cards made be purchased at branches of TD Bank, the Cape Cod Five banks and the Cape Cod Cooperative banks in Dennis and Yarmouth, local churches, and at HAC, 460 W. Main St., Hyannis. You may also mail a request for cards to Box 507, Yarmouthport, MA 02675. (Click for more ways to buy grocery cards and gift cards.)

It costs you nothing to use the card, but 5 percent of what you spend is donated to the prevention program.

Be part of the good news. Make it better. More neighbors helping neighbors will make Cape Cod a better place for all of us.

Mary D. Joyce of Yarmouthport is a DYECH volunteer. covers Project Playhouse ribbon cuttings

Posted on Sat, Jul 02, 2011

The ribbon cutting ceremony for Project Playhouse is part of an initiative to raise money for homeless families on the Cape

Project Playhouse ribbon cuttings set for July 1

Posted on Tue, Jun 28, 2011

Project Playhouse Cape Cod: Building Hope for Cape Kids is a new fundraising event to support the children’s programs of Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC). Local builders have constructed playhouses that will be displayed this summer and won in raffles by three lucky winners.

HAC partnered with Cape builders Cape Associates, the Valle Group and EJ Jaxtimer to build three one-of-a-kind playhouses that will be showcased at three highly visible venues: the Cape Cod Mall, Mashpee Commons and Four Seas Ice Cream.

The playhouses will be on display beginning with ribbon-cutting ceremonies on July 1 at 11 a.m. at Mashpee Commons, 5 p.m. at the Cape Cod Mall (near Sears) and 7 p.m. at Four Seas Ice Cream, 360 South Main Street, Centerville.

Raffle tickets for a chance to win the playhouses will be sold to the public for $10 online (at through Aug. 12 and at the three Playhouse locations July 1 through Aug. 12. The goal is to raise $40,000 for program support and to raise awareness of the issue of family homelessness on Cape Cod. The winners will be selected on Aug. 12 at 11 a.m. at Mashpee Commons, 5 p.m. at the Cape Cod Mall and 7 p.m. at Four Seas Ice Cream.

On Cape Cod alone, there are nearly 1,000 children who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. For these children, homelessness means sleeping in shelters, on couches, in cars or sometimes in a tent. It means frequent moves, being separated from relatives and friends, and being uprooting from schools and community.

Housing Assistance Corporation serves Cape Cod families in need through three emergency family shelters, homelessness prevention programs, foreclosure counseling and development of affordable housing for purchase or rent. In 2010, HAC served 10,114 households on Cape Cod.

About the Playhouses

• Four Seas Ice Cream Playhouse (designed and built by EJ Jaxtimer with materials donated by Botello Lumber): Founded in 1934, Four Seas Ice Cream is one of the most acclaimed ice cream shops in America. Project Playhouse Cape Cod will give you a chance to own a child’s-size version of the ice cream shop that’s been drawing lines of visitors for almost 80 years. Whether you prefer chocolate, vanilla or peppermint stick, you’ll love playing in your own miniature Four Seas. On display at Four Seas Ice Cream, 360 South Main Street, Centerville.

• Green EsCape Playhouse (designed by Zero Energy Design and built by Cape Associates with materials donated by Shepley Wood Products): You’ll love the cool features built into this playhouse. The inside includes a chalk board wall, a toy storage bin that also can be accessed from the outside and a loft with a telescope. If you get tired from playing on the climbing wall, you can rest on a built-in lounge chair that slides across the deck. On display near Sears at the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis.

• The Starfish Playhouse (designed and built by The Valle Group with material donated by Falmouth Lumber): The coolest new “shop” at Mashpee Commons is a playhouse with an ocean theme. The interior has classic Cape Cod beadboard and shelving for sea glass, sand dollars, fish stamps and more. The Starfish “store” has a countertop with a cash register. Exterior features include an awning, flower boxes and a working solar panel (donated by Cotuit Solar).

HAC is grateful to the local businesses that have sponsored Project Playhouse Cape Cod:

Star Sponsors: Business Center of Cape Cod, Cape Associates, Cape Cod Mall, Four Seas Ice Cream, E.J. Jaxtimer Builder, Mashpee Commons, Roe Osborn Photography, Shepley Wood Products, The Valle Group, and Zero Energy Design

Hope Sponsors: Absolutely Juiced, Botello Lumber, Falmouth Lumber, Falmouth Toyota, Ghelfi's Candies of Cape Cod, Market Street Bookshop, Oceanside Restoration, Puritan Cape Cod and Red Balloon Toy Shop.

Friends Sponsors: Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank Charitable Trust Foundation, Dowling & O’Neil Insurance and Heald Hoffmeister and Company.

Supporters: The Barnstable Painter, Cape Cod Paper, Dimeco & Company and Graphic Design.

For more information about Project Playhouse Cape Cod, visit or call 508-771-5400.

Dennis housing project on a smooth track

Posted on Thu, Jun 09, 2011

Twenty-four units of affordable housing are coming to Route 134 in South Dennis.

But not tomorrow.

The Housing Assistance Corporation, which won the bid for the project on the former Melpet Farm property, is at work behind the scenes following Dennis residents’ approval of a $150,000 Municipal Housing Trust loan to fund pre-development expenses at the May 3 annual Town Meeting.

“That’s a huge step,” said Valerie Foster, MHT chairwoman. “Behind the scenes paper-pushing takes a great deal of time and patience. The money approved at Town Meeting will go a long way to pay the architectural, engineering, attorney and permitting fees.” It’s also costly to prepare the lengthy applications for funding the $6.4 million project.

Kate Ferreira, HAC’s housing development project manager, expects to have all pre-development work completed by December. “It’s rare that a project is funded in the first application round,” she said. “We will use the agencies’ feedback to improve our applications, hoping for full funding in the second round.” Ferreira expects full funding by the spring or summer of 2013.

HAC has applied for $3.4 million in tax credit and will seek $500,000 in Community Preservation Act funding, $550,000 in federal housing funds, and $1 million in state affordable housing trust funds.

“The cost can change during the time they’re waiting for construction,” Foster said. “This is a preliminary budget and a moving target until the day we close. But Dennis residents can rest assured that in the request for proposals, we specified exactly what we want.”

HAC has conducted preliminary meetings with the fire and engineering departments, the Old King’s Highway district committee and the board of health to determine their requirements in order to streamline the permitting process. “We have made changes based on their input,” said Gisele Gauthier, HAC’s director of housing development.

The OKH committee was scheduled to consider HAC’s requests for demolition and construction, including solar panels on the buildings’ roofs on Wednesay night, June 8, after The Register’s deadline. On June 20, HAC will bring the project before the planning board and on July 14, the board of health will review the project. Town Engineer Joe Rodricks has contracted Fay, Spofford & Thorndike of Burlington to conduct a summer traffic study along Route 134 from Bob Crowell to Setucket roads.

Foster, who also serves as executive director of the Chatham and Harwich housing authorities, said developing affordable housing is a lengthy process. “You wait and wait and wait, but when you see the first building come down, pay attention,” Foster said. “ Construction will go into overdrive, and the project will be up and operating in a year.”

Nicole Muller can be reached at