Mirroring the surge in COVID-19 cases this winter will be an escalation of residents needing help to keep a roof over their heads, warns Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC). With a surge also in unemployment claims due to the economic fallout from a tough summer season, and unemployment benefits currently delayed because of widespread fraud, many who have never needed help are seeking financial assistance. Housing insecurity on the Cape will be further affected as home sales are taking place at breakneck speed and unprecedented prices.
“This is a tale of two COVIDs,” said Alisa Magnotta, CEO of Housing Assistance Corporation, based in Hyannis. “The effect of COVID on our fragile seasonal economy has increased the number of people who struggle financially. While on the other end of the economic scale, COVID has created a ‘banner’ year for the real estate sector.”
“Real estate on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket is leading the economic recovery as buyers with the freedom to work from anywhere have sought to make our region a more permanent place in their life,” said Ryan Castle, CEO of the Cape and Islands Association of Realtors (CCIAOR). “Yet, over the long-term, the demand has given us a massive decline in available homes for sale and is harming housing affordability across Barnstable County. Until there are long-term solutions to produce more housing to stabilize affordability, Housing Assistance plays a vital role in preventing homelessness with offering out-of-the-box solutions like the Workforce Housing Fund.”
When the pandemic hit, Housing Assistance established the Workforce Housing Relief Fund to provide urgent assistance with past due rent or mortgage payments or other housing-related expenses for Cape Cod and Islands residents who are losing income due to the coronavirus. The fund provides an essential safety net for households who don’t qualify for public assistance and who earn up to 100 percent of the Area Median Income for Barnstable, Nantucket, or Dukes Counties.
Housing Assistance is grateful to CCIAOR for contributing $10,000 to the Workforce Fund, inspiring a matching contribution of $10,000 from its members. Housing Assistance will be able to support more than 300 families over several months as the community recovers from the pandemic.
Within the first month of the COVID-19 public health crisis, Housing Assistance witnessed a record spike in the number of households seeking rent and mortgage assistance to stay in their homes. Compared to the same period in 2019, Housing Assistance witnessed a 325 percent increase in foreclosure prevention requests and a 413% increase in requests for help with past-due rent. Then in October of 2020, 52 percent of households requested assistance as their rent was in arrears, compared to 13 pecent a year earlier.
“The economic fallout from COVID is going to come crashing down for a lot of people. Not just for low- to moderate-income earners, but also higher income people who are seeking our help. There is a real danger of huge adverse economic impact on our region. All indicators are pointing to a really tough beginning for 2021. People need to know that Housing Assistance is here to help,” said Magnotta.
Donations to the Workforce Housing Relief Fund can be made via the Housing Assistance Corporation’s Workforce Housing Relief Fund Donation Page.