Housing Assistance Launches Innovative THRIVE Program To Assist Workforce

Housing Assistance Corporation’s new THRIVE program will provide essential housing support for those employed in the childcare industry or those working with people with developmental disabilities.

Born out of the desire to help the workforce to remain on Cape Cod, Housing Assistance created this innovative program to assist the housing affordability gap while offering economic mobility opportunities to essential employees who play an essential role in the local economy.

“We are losing our locals faster than we are building housing for them. This gap in inventory creates an affordability gap at epic proportions,” explained Housing Assistance CEO Alisa Magnotta.

THRIVE, which stands for Tools to House Residents in a Vulnerable Economy , comes after a successful pilot program in 2021, in which participants were able to reduce debt, start savings accounts, improve their credit, or create plans for eventual home ownership. THRIVE participants will receive a fixed subsidy ($450 per month for up to 24 months) paid to their landlords, increasing the affordability of their housing costs. They will work with a housing counselor to set financial goals, with the intention of reducing expenses and/or increasing household income.

“THRIVE helps to solve two problems: workers making too much to qualify for most ‘capital a’ affordable housing programs but not enough to afford market rate housing; and ensuring critical workers remain employed on Cape Cod,” said Magnotta. “Childcare is a critical underpinning of a sustainable economy. The displacement of these workers would cause other industries on the Cape to collapse. I felt it imperative for HAC to use its resources to respond proactively.”

Community support for THRIVE got off to an impressive start, as donors at Cape and Islands United Way’s Best Night event on June 26 pledged $75,000 during their ‘fund a need’ portion of their signature annual event, immediately matched with $60,000 from the Cape and Islands United Way Ronald Reed Endowment Fund United Way and $50,000 from the Bilezikian Family Foundation.

The Cape and Islands United Way board of directors made 2022 a year to make an impact addressing housing challenges. The collaboration with Housing Assistance Corporation came about after the United Way reviewed several projects for “fund a need” and recognized the impact THRIVE could make in the lives not only of workers, but of the greater community and economy.

“Many households have the recipe for success but need a boost,” said Mark Skala, president and CEO of Cape and Islands United Way. “The combination of coaching and a voucher will empower and transform lives.”

“In addition to the subsidy, the educational offerings in THRIVE will help employees improve their housing stability and financial mobility in the long run,” said Greg Bilezikian of the Bilezikian Family Foundation.

The support from the United Way patrons, board of directors and the Bilezikian Family Foundation will help cover THRIVE’s funding during its first year. The United Way Board match comes from its Ronald Reed Endowment Fund. Reed was a longtime banker and philanthropist on Cape Cod.

The second year of THRIVE will be primarily funded through an ARPA grant that was secured by State Senators Julian Cyr and Susan Moran.

“For only $6,000 a year per family, we can make the difference between local workers being displaced and being able to continue to live and work Cape Cod,” said Magnotta. “Donations to THRIVE directly support the Cape community and economy.”

Those interested in contributing financial support for THRIVE may contact Anne Van Vleck, Housing Assistance’s chief development officer, at avanvleck@HAConCapeCod.org.

“As we continue to lobby the state for better compensation for direct care workers, THRIVE offers a critical bridge for our employees, who work with a vulnerable population. Like many businesses, we have lost a number of employees because they can no longer afford to live on the Cape.,” said Anne McManus, executive director of Latham Centers.

Childcare staffing shortages, informed by the housing crisis, has led to long waits for working families.

“When we lose an employee, the families served by that individual face losing childcare, which in turn disrupts their ability to do their job. This Housing Assistance initiative will increase the ability to retain year-round employees, reduce the stress on those employees and have a multiplier effect on the broader economy,” said Stacie Peugh, president and CEO of YMCA Cape Cod. 

Eligible THRIVE recipients are Cape Cod households currently paying more than 30 percent of their income toward rent; have a written lease or rental agreement; live in a unit that is not currently subsidized through another program. Households have a household member who is employed in one of the THRIVE target industries (childcare and serving people with disabilities).

Applications and more information are available at https://haconcapecod.org/thrive/.