Today is Giving Tuesday

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Support RCAP Solutions’ SafeStep Shelter Program!

donation amts to ss familiesDomestic abuse victims and their families often escape their abusers with nothing but the clothes on their back to call their own.

RCAP Solutions’ SafeStep Emergency Assistance Shelter provides shelter, housing and stabilization services for these fragile and homeless families at their most desperate time of need.

Your donation will mean more families will be provided with food, toiletries, and furnished homes when they enter the SafeStep program.

Today, we kick off our year-end campaign.

Please click here to make a donation and help us reach our goal of raising $10,000 this holiday season to help Worcester County families in need.

To learn more about SafeStep, please click here.

 

Action Alert – Support Homelessness Prevention

Please Contact your MA State Senator and Ask for Restored Funding for Housing Consumer Education Centers.

RCAP Solutions, along with the eight partner agencies that provide vital housing programs and services to families throughout the Commonwealth, request that funding for the Housing Consumer Education Centers (amendment 335) be restored to the FY14 level of $2.6 million. This amendment will allow HCECs to meet the continued demand for services from individuals and families at urgent risk of homelessness and serve all Massachusetts residents in need of housing supports and services.

The Commonwealth’s nine Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) are the front line for housing crisis response across the state.  They are an essential element in the delivery system for other state-funded programs, including RAFT and HomeBASE.

HCECs have assisted more than 56,350 households through March of this fiscal year, and are on track to assist more than 75,000 households this fiscal year. Over the last ten years, this assistance has an average cost of less than $28 per household.

Crisis prevention and housing education services provided through the HCECs result in fewer evictions and foreclosures and take pressure off housing courts and other state services. However, assisting people in crisis requires time-intensive counseling by professional staff.

We ask you to contact your Massachusetts State Senator immediately and ask that they support Senator Wolf’s amendment 335.  This will restore RCAP Solutions’ ability to serve the residents of Central Massachusetts through the cost effective HCEC program, by providing $2.6 million in Fiscal Year 2016, restoring funding to the nine regional housing agencies.

Find your MA State Senator by clicking here.

For more information, please click here or contact Brian Scales, Chief Development and Governmental Affairs Officer at 978-630-6649 or bscales@rcapsolutions.org.

Thank you for your continued support.

Gone to the Birds Gala

On September 18, 2014, RCAP Solutions Celebrated its 45th Anniversary by going to the birds! Over 250 attendees, made up of artists, business professionals, RCAP Solutions supporters and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce members participated in a birdhouse auction, hosted by Skinner Auctions. Over 100 works of art were auctioned, raising over $16,000. 100% of the proceeds will support housing and homelessness prevention programs for Worcester County families.

We thank the many generous sponsors, talented artists, and the staff and volunteers who donated their time and talents and helped to make this event a great success!

Photos by Andrea Seward, Habakkuk Media Services.

 

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The Hidden Cost of Suburban Poverty

During April 2014, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston conducted its semiannual New England Community Outlook Survey. The survey covered topics ranging from the availability of credit for small businesses to emerging issues facing lower-income communities; this time the survey also included three questions specific to issues affecting suburban lower-income communities.  New England’s population is split between rural areas, small metropolitan areas, urban centers, and suburban areas surrounding the urban centers. In the past, due to the urban bias of respondents, many New England Community Outlook Survey reports focused on the lower- and moderate-income urban experience. In January 2014, the survey was revised somewhat to shed light on the challenges facing New England’s rural communities, and this report focuses on low- and moderate-income households that till now haven’t been widely acknowledged as living within New England’s suburban communities.  

factoid1-cropStruggling suburban families are emerging from anonymity.  In April 2014, a Boston Globe article looked at emerging food stamp usage in the gentrifying town of Bristol, Rhode Island, New Hampshire Business Magazine devoted its June 2014 cover story to the working poor, and the August 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine highlighted the “The New Face of Hunger.”

Roughly 1.8 million of the people living in New England’s suburban communities have experienced poverty in the last 12 months; more than 125,000 of them are children under the age of five.  Equally startling is the fact that 25.3% of New England’s suburban households currently receive food stamps.

All too often, low- and moderate-income (LMI) families live in suburban neighborhoods that are replete with wealth but devoid of the social service networks available to urban families in need.    This New England Community Outlook Survey Report tries to shine light on the challenges they face, with a particular focus on Connecticut.

With much of its population dispersed among the largest cities, Connecticut presented a unique opportunity to examine a largely suburban state with a relatively high median family income, in which many lower-income families seemingly “are lost in the suburbs.”  We looked at two specific metropolitan areas in Connecticut – Hartford and New Haven – where lower-income suburban families are struggling to cope with the high cost of affordable child care and making sacrifices to pay for the daily commute to work, both of which pose a risk to household financial stability.  It is worth noting, however, that the challenges described could apply to any suburban neighborhood in New England.

We encourage you to review the Report and share it with those who might have an interest.

 

45 Days ’till we’re Gone to the Birds!

45 days till Gala

It’s only 45 days until The Gone to the Birds Gala and Birdhouse Auction!

As we count down the days to our 45th Anniversary Celebration, we will provide you with RCAP trivia, testimonials and spotlight the artists that have contiributed to our exciting Birdhouse Auction, so please check in with us regularly…  It should be a fun-filled 45 days!

Visit www.rcapsolutions.org/gonetothebirds/ for more information about the Gala, artists, sponsors, tickets, etc.

It will be an event to remember!

 

RCAP Fact #1:

Last year, we serviced 10,210 families through rental assistance, homelessness prevention initiatives, self sufficiency programs and Housing Consumer Education Center services.

That’s almost 28 families per day!

May is Building Safety Month

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This May, FEMA is supporting the 34th Annual
(BSM) to promote the importance of high building standards, protecting the environment, and saving energy.

BSM is a public awareness campaign founded by the International Code Council (ICC). The campaign focuses on public outreach and education to increase the overall safety and sustainability of buildings through the adoption of model building codes and promotion of code enforcement. An array of theme-related community events, safety demonstrations, and educational outreach activities take place during BSM. The overarching theme of BSM is Building Safety: Maximizing Resilience, Minimizing Risks. This theme is supported by weekly building safety sub-themes:

For the fourth consecutive year, President Obama has proclaimed May as National Building Safety Month to underscore that safe building codes and standards have an essential role in decreasing the effects of disasters. As is articulated in Presidential Policy Directive/ PPD-8, National Preparedness, as well as PPD-21, Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience, building safety, fire prevention, and energy codes and standards help achieve disaster resilience for our Nation.

Our Nation’s building safety, fire prevention, and energy codes and standards play a critical role in maintaining and ensuring the safety of our buildings and enable our Nation to better prepare, respond, recover, and mitigate from all hazards. Strong building safety, fire prevention, and energy codes and standards also puts the Nation in a better position to deal with future challenges, such as climate change. FEMA supports ICC’s BSM as it strives to help communities reduce the impacts of natural disasters by promoting the importance of high building standards, protecting the environment, and saving energy.

For more information on FEMA’s Building Science Branch, please visit http://www.fema.gov/building-science. For more information on Building Safety Month, visit www.buildingsafetymonth.org.

The RCAP Solutions inspections team performs almost 6,000 housing inspections per year, providing support to an array of families including low income families receiving rental assistance, those in shared housing as well as families participating in the home modification loan program. Our inspectors provide this service to ensure that our clients are provided safe, suitable, quality housing.

Now Renting One Bedroom & Studio Apartments

Settle into your new home!

RCAP Solutions is now renting studio & one bedroom apartments!

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Hubbardston House

Hubbardston House Apartments - 1 Old Princeton Road Cut-Off, Hubbardston, Ma (click link for brochure)

Bolton Country Manor - 600 Main Street, Bolton, Ma (click link for brochure)

BoltonCountryManor-Brochure

Bolton Country Manor

Beautiful, spacious Studio & One Bedroom Apartments for Adults 62 years and over or mobility impaired (in Hubbardston House only) that meet HUD eligibility income guidelines.

Rents are based on 30% of adjusted gross income, if eligible.  Newly remodeled with modern appliances and carpeting.  On-site laundry facilities, emergency call system, community room, on call maintenance and parking on site.  Small pets are welcome.

For more information call: 

Hubbardston House:  (978) 928-5922

Bolton Country Manor: (978) 779-5007

TTY: (978) 630-6754

Property Applications can be found here:  http://www.rcapsolutions.org/rcap-property-applications/

American Renters Still Cannot Afford Rent Nationwide

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On March 24, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released Out of Reach 2014. This is the 25th anniversary of Out of Reach. The first Out of Reach was published in 1989.

This year, the national two-bedroom Housing Wage of $18.92. The Housing Wage represents the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn in order to afford a modest rental home while spending no more than 30% of their income toward housing costs. This means that nationally a household must have income of least $39,360 a year in order to afford a two-bedroom unit at the Fair Market Rent (FMR) of $984 per month.

Wages of renters continue to fall short of housing costs. The average renter in the U.S. earns $14.64, $4.28 less than the national two-bedroom Housing Wage and fifty-one cents less than the one-bedroom Housing Wage of $15.15.

Extremely low income (ELI) households, those with incomes of 30% or less of the area median (AMI), comprise one out of every four renters, and fare even worse when seeking affordable housing. ELI renter households are only able to afford rents of $493 a month, far less than the two-bedroom FMR of $984 and the one-bedroom FMR of $788.

A full time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour can afford just $377 per month in rent. A minimum wage earner would need to work 104 hours per week, or have 2.6 jobs earning the minimum wage, to afford a two-bedroom rental unit. While Congress and some states are considering raising the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over the next three-and-a-half years, this wage would still fall short of the Housing Wage of $18.92. Housing will still be out of reach for low wage workers in every state in the nation.

While the national data illustrate the gap between what people earn and what housing costs, the data that are the most useful for housing advocates are those that tell the state and local story. The five states with the highest two-bedroom Housing Wage are: Hawaii ($31.54); District of Columbia ($28.25); California ($26.04); Maryland ($24.94); and New Jersey ($24.92).

Massachusetts Numbers:

In Massachusetts, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,252. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities – without paying more than 30% of income on housing – a household must earn $4,174 monthly or $50,090 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $24.08.

In Massachusetts, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $8.00. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 120 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or a household must include 3.0 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.

In Massachusetts, the estimated mean (average) wage for a renter is $17.47. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment at this wage, a renter must work 55 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, working 40 hours per week year-round, a household must include 1.4 workers earning the mean renter wage in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.

The report was released in a press conference with NLIHC President and CEO Sheila Crowley, NLIHC Research Analyst Althea Arnold, and Director of Housing Policy at Consumer Federation of America and former president of NLIHC, Barry Zigas. Mr. Zigas headed NLIHC in 1989 when the first Out of Reach was issued. He discussed the origins of the report. Ms. Crowley emphasized the importance of increasing the affordable housing stock for low income renters through an adequately funded National Housing Trust Fund.

As has been the case each year, Out of Reach attracts considerable media coverage. In the week of its release this year, the report was covered by the Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post, CNN, and dozens of state and local print, television, and radio outlets.

Out of Reach 2014 can be found at http://www.nlihc.org/oor/2014
To view NLIHC’s press release on the report, go to: http://nlihc.org/press/releases/4214

Massachusetts State Report: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/2014-OOR-MA.pdf

Cuba – A Changing Landscape

2013 - December - Cuba 11by Scott Andrew Bartley

Board member Drew Bartley had the opportunity to visit Cuba in December 2013 on a housing professional’s tour centered in Havana and arranged by the Mass. Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) of which RCAP Solutions is a member. Though Cuba is the forbidden exotic destination for Americans, it is a common stop for others around the world. It is a step back in time, 1959 to be exact, the date of the Revolution. The temperatures are tropical and the local people warm and friendly. That is the backdrop for this story about housing.

Remember that Cuba is a communist country. It has limited resources and access to outside material under the U.S. embargo that has been in effect since the early 1960s. One thing the government believes in is housing. Its mandate is that everyone deserves housing – owned, rented, or subsidized. Realize that their version differs dramatically from the U.S., but the underlying concept would serve us well here. Various housing and redevelopment groups are currently focused on Old Havana – the most densely populated area that is steeped in history and glorious architecture. In this part of the city, they have created a school to teach students the skills to rebuild or renovate these building that form one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage sites inside the old 1519 city and its walls. The program helps provide jobs for the youth, carries on the tradition of skills to maintain this world treasure, and benefits those most in need by providing housing where they need it most.

Outside the city, Cubans have developed two styles of communal living to serve large numbers of citizens while focusing infrastructure such as water and power in centralized areas. East Havana is home to a housing project where the design creates the density for a sustainable community along with the larger and smaller commercial businesses to support itself for the long term with education systems and health care built in. Infrastructure is planned to keep the land as open as possible, with housing set away from busy streets, and a safe haven for children of all ages. The rural concept is to bring the local farmers into a small community where all central services can be provided with minimal cost. Food, water, utilities, health, and other services are provided in the community. Surrounding these communities is the farmers’ land where they grow crops and graze animals that can easily be brought into the system through the small community they support. In exchange, the farmers deed their old land to the government.

The benefit of the Cuban plan is a variety of options, a national vision, and a resolve to do right by all its citizens. Every plan has its pros and cons, but in Cuba, it is interwoven with the political machine. That said, the citizens benefit most if they agree with and support the Communist system there. A few at the top do get some housing perks, but the majority waits their turn. It goes for others things like food – which is rationed, but that does not mean there will be meat at the store when you want it.

The system tries to be fair to the extreme. Everyone knows what they will be paid when they try for a job. The pay scales are set for your life. No amount of exceptional work will better your situation.  The system breeds a lack of incentive and it shows. This structure creates little growth or surplus to fuel the economy for improvement. The government is now wondering if they can afford to continue the service it now provides for everyone. This includes housing to the point that the government is considering prioritizing certain needier populations to receive the subsidized housing first.

Change is afoot. Raoul Castro has allowed limited private and public partnerships for certain businesses, but it still maintains a strict control over most Cubans’ lives. This is a start, but the process is likely to be a very slow one. As one official told us, “Enjoy my country, but don’t try to understand it!”

IMG_2701Back row: David Koven (developer); Joe Krisberg (MACDC Director); Diane Gordon (housing consultant); Cuban colleague; Drew Bartley (RCAP Solutions); Marissa Guananja (Neighborhood Developers in Chelsea); Mickey Northcutt (North Shore CDC Director); Bruce Hampton (architect)

Middle row: Russ Tanner (Madison Park CDC); Four Cuban colleagues; Chris Norris (MBHP director); Richard Thal (J.P. CDC) [behind him] Mel Westlake (Historic Newton); Valeska Daley (consultant) Cuban colleague; Sue Hampton; Steve Farrell (MBHP) [in front of him] Cuban colleague

Front row: Cuban colleague; Shirronda Almeida (MACDC); Dr. Gina Rey (Cuban housing leader); Tom Davis (Recap Advisors consultant); Pam Bender (MACDC); Chrystal Kornegay (Urban Edge Director); Vanessa Calderon-Rosado (IBA CDC); Cuban colleague; Janelle Chan (Asian CDC)

Kneeling: Cuban colleague

Understanding the Challenges and Solutions to Aging in Place

001_seniorsThe following is from a featured article in PD&R EDGE NEWS, an online publication from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development:

Over the next 40 years, the population of Americans over age 65 is expected to double from 40 to 80 million, and the population over age 85 is expected to more than triple from 6 to 20 million. Complicating these demographic trends is the desire of most elderly Americans to “age in place,” or stay in their own homes and communities as they age. On January 9, 2013, HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research convened a panel of experts to discuss these looming demographic changes, their implications for American society, and models that enable elderly Americans to access the services necessary to successfully age in place.

An important context for the discussion was provided by panelist and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, who, like many Americans, approaches the subject through the lens of his own experiences with his parents. “My mother is 89 years old and lives in the home she and my dad bought 2 years before I was born,” said Cisneros. After some time spent in a nursing facility, his mother’s return home was accompanied by an “almost a palpable expression of peace and joy as she walked through the house.” For most Americans, the prospect of aging in place is not an esoteric policy discussion; instead, it strikes an intensely personal chord, touching on life, death, and the importance of family. Given the visceral connection most of us have to our homes and communities, institutions at the local, state, and the federal levels must tackle the challenges of our nation’s aging population and develop solutions that permit people to comfortably age in place.

Obstacles to Aging in Place

Although most Americans want to age in place, the reality, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services senior policy analyst James Toews, is that too many individuals enter long-term care institutions unnecessarily or prematurely. Homes and communities frequently are not designed to address the needs of seniors. Many seniors need assistance performing activities of daily living and live in environments that do not accommodate their functional limitations.

Following a catastrophic health event, 25 percent of elderly Americans who temporarily enter a nursing home will find it too difficult to leave. Toews identifies caregiver burnout as one of the primary barriers to aging at home — in the United States, family members provide about 85 percent of all caregiving. These family members may be unable or ill-equipped to provide the complex medical procedures their elderly relatives need, and the medical community offers them little support. In fact, this lack of support is a more significant factor in caregiver burnout than the complexity of the procedures.

RCAP Solutions provides a comprehensive array of elder service programs which can assist our aging population and those who are disabled.  Our Home Modification Loan Program provides financing to disabled persons and their families, enabling individuals to remain independent and make structural improvements affecting the safety of individuals and caregivers.  For more information, please click here.

To see the entire article please click here.