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Stay at Home

This is what has been broadcasted all over the news and social media. For many of us that is an easy task. We have a good roof over our heads and a strong foundation underneath our feet. But for others, the stay at home order can be an unsafe or unrealistic task. As we continue to follow social distance regulations, let’s reflect on how we can understand other’s positions and how we can help (even if it is from the couch). 

As more relief has been flowing in, housing assistance has been a topic of conversation. Through the CARES Act, there has been an allocated $12 billion in funding for HUD programs which is divided into specific program areas. 

Though- funding takes time to flow through the systems, and people are still at risk. People who suffer homelessness are at a higher risk of obtaining Coronavirus and getting sick. They have less access to follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines such as washing hands, wearing a mask, access to healthcare, or staying six feet apart from others. People who are homeless and contract Coronavirus are twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to require critical care, and two to three times as likely to die than others in the general public. Let those numbers soak in. 

A large part of our population is struggling. With the unemployment rate at a new high, more Americans are living on savings and wondering how they will pay for rent or their mortgage. For people who have been living paycheck to paycheck before the Coronavirus, this fear is more intense. If one family member were to get sick or if there was another unexpected cost/problem, the probability of loss is a lot higher. Of HOME, Inc. clients, 50% of them spent more than half their income on rent in the 2018-19 fiscal year. Now with fewer jobs available and higher risks, the Coronavirus is creating stress and financial worry for many renters and homeowners.

There have been many responses by different governments of how they respond to the homeless population. Some cities, such as San Francisco, are leasing hotel rooms for people who need a safe place to shelter in place. Others, like the state of Connecticut, are creating shelters.

There are many ways to help people who are homeless or suffering an additional burden because of Coronavirus. Donations to food banks, donations of masks and other personal protection equipment cleaning supplies, and other household items are needed in the Des Moines Community. 

HOME, Inc. continues to provide services remotely. We are talking to many tenants and landlords communicating new laws and what they can do during this time. We are here for the Des Moines people and will continue to be. 

Sources/Learn more:
How the CARES Act supports housing: https://nlihc.org/resource/congressional-leaders-agree-coronavirus-response-package-funding-homelessness-and-housing
FAQ Homelessness and Coronavirus: https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/FAQs_Coronavirus-Homelessness.pdf
Affordable Housing and Coronavirus: https://www.deseret.com/opinion/2020/5/14/21257807/as-covid-19-continues-its-economic-upheaval-affordable-housing-is-becoming-scarce


Top Tips for Working from Home

1. Get Dressed
It might seem like a simple tip, but it’s a crucial one. Even though It is tempting to stay in pajamas all day, getting dressed can heavily improve productivity.

Getting dressed also applies to other appearance-based tasks: Take a shower, brush your hair, even put on makeup if that’s what you’d usually do. You don’t need to go as all out as you would for the office if you don’t want to, but waking up and taking care of your appearance can go a long way toward helping you feel like you’re taking care of yourself. 

2. Designate a Workspace or Home Office
If you’re used to going into an office each day, the separation between work and home is physical, and you want to try to recreate that as much as possible with a designated physical workspace at home.  Try to make your workspace comfortable with a chair you can sit in for eight hours a day and a few decorations. Find an area with good natural lighting if at all possible. Even if you don’t usually spend a lot of time outdoors, losing out on the time you spend outdoors during your commute can start to weigh on you quickly, and it will only happen faster if you don’t have natural light coming in.

Entering your workspace will help you turn “on” at the beginning of the day and get down to work. On the flip-side, leaving your workspace will also help you turn “off” at the end of the day and fully disengage.

3. Keep Clearly Defined Working Hours
Just as you designate and separate your physical workspace, you should be clear about when you’re working and when you’re not. You’ll get your best work done and be most ready to transition back to the office if you stick with your regular hours. Plus, if your role is collaborative, being on the same schedule as your coworkers makes everything much easier.

If you live with other people, this separation is even more critical. Communicate with the people you live with to establish boundaries so you can cut down on distractions during the workday—and then disconnect and give the people you care about your full attention. Having a separate time and space to work will allow you to be more present in your home life.

4. Build Transitions Into (and Out of) Work
Your morning commute not only gets you to work—from one physical location to another—but it also gives your brain time to prepare for work. Just because you’re not traveling doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carve out equivalent routines to help you ease into your workday.

Maybe you usually read or listen to music on your commute. You can do that at home. Or maybe you can spend some time with a pet or loved one. You can even add in a workout (preferably at home because of the new Coronavirus, but see what is being recommended where you live) or spend some time on a hobby (again, make sure it’s appropriate given the health recommendations where you are).

5. Don’t Get Too Sucked in by the News—or Anything Else
Distraction is one of the big challenges facing people who work from home—especially people who aren’t used to it. “Your home is right in front of you,” Berger says. That means that whatever you’re usually thinking about getting home to after work is now with you. It’s human to get distracted. But you need to be wary of how much you let yourself get distracted. 

You probably already take a few breaks throughout the day at the office, and that’s fine to do at home, too. Using that time to throw in a load of laundry is okay, but try not to look at your new work arrangement as an opportunity to finally clean out that closet or anything else that takes a lot of sustained focus. 

Right now, one of the biggest distractions is the news. And if you’re working remotely because of the new coronavirus, checking in on COVID-19 updates is going to be at the front of your mind. It’s good to stay informed, of course, but it’s also easy to scroll yourself into an anxious mess. 

Try setting timers for any breaks you take. You don’t want to get too immersed and forget that you’re at work altogether. If you’re someone who’s susceptible to getting distracted every time you get a news alert, turn your notifications off during the workday, too. The news will still be there after 5 PM.

6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
If you don’t usually work from home, chances are there will be some bumps in the road if you have to suddenly go fully remote. The key to steering through these bumps is communication—especially with your manager and direct reports. Either before you make the switch or as soon as you know it’s happening, come up with a plan that lays out expectations for how often you should check in and how you’ll convey any changes or new assignments to one another. Do the same with anyone you usually work collaboratively with throughout the day.

This plan is likely to change as you go. And that’s OK. This is a new situation for everyone. So make sure to circle back and change the plan if problems come up. You’ll also encounter unique challenges as you try to do your job remotely, which can vary greatly depending on the type of work you do. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the same people you would usually turn to for help—even if you’re not in the same building as them.

And you don’t have to stick with only text-based communication. “Do not default to email if you would have spoken to a coworker face-to-face while at the office,” Yurovsky says. You might find it’s best to check in with your boss and coworkers over the phone or through video chat. This will cut down on miscommunication and break up some of the social isolation that can come from working from home.

7. Don’t Forget to Socialize
When the whole office suddenly starts working from home, you’re cutting off a lot of the casual social interactions you’re used to having throughout the day that help you feel less lonely and break up the monotony of work.

Combat this by talking with your coworkers throughout the day through Slack, calls, text, Zoom, or however your company communicates. If you usually ask your coworkers about their weekends, keep that up. If you’d usually comment to them about a specific topic, reach out. These little interactions go a long way. 


Homebuying terms you should know - C

A new month means five new housing vocabulary!

Capital Gains

What are capital gains?
Capital gains are profits made from the sale of real estate, investments and personal property. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) classifies capital gains according to the length of time the taxpayer owned the property. Short-term capital gains refer to profits made from selling assets owned for one year or less, while profits earned on assets owned for more than one year are considered long-term capital gains.

Deeper definition
Although many people associate the term with stocks and bonds, capital assets are anything an individual owns and uses for personal and investment purposes. This includes houses, furniture, coin collections, precious metals and jewelry.

According to the IRS, taxpayers must report and pay taxes on all capital gains. There is a capital gains tax exemption for the sale of a primary residence. As long as an owner lived in her primary residence for at least two of the last five years and hasn’t used the exemption within the past two years, she doesn’t have to pay capital gains taxes on the profit earned from the sale.

The IRS treats short-term capital gains as regular income and calculates the taxes due, using the taxpayer’s filing status and adjusted gross income. Long-term capital gains generally have a lower tax rate than short-term gains, capped at 20 percent in the highest tax bracket. Most taxpayers qualify for the 15 percent tax rate, and those with low incomes sometimes pay no taxes on capital gains.

Carry back

What is carry back?
Carry back is a special provision that allows transfer of a net loss of a particular year to the preceding years, mainly to ease the tax burden.

Deeper definition
“Carry back” is an accounting technique where a company applies parts of the current year’s net operating losses to the income of the preceding year. In other words, a year’s tax loss may be used to offset profits in previous years. This technique is a legal method of reducing the tax liability of the current year.

A net operating loss arises when tax deductions and operating expenses exceed the income realized in a particular financial period. These losses can be carried back to ease the year’s tax burden. This loss can be apportioned anywhere during the three preceding years.

A loss carry back has similar dynamics to those of a carry forward. The difference is that the carry forward apportions the operating losses to future periods. In this method, losses can be carried forward and applied within seven years after the operating loss has been incurred.

The IRS recommends that records for any year involving a net operating loss should be kept for three years after the expiration of the carry forward.

The process of claiming a carry back begins by completing the tax return that is relevant to the type of business. If the net loss realized is greater than the income earned, one can proceed with the carry back process to the previous year.

Cash-out Refinance

What is a cash-out refinance?
A cash-out refinance, or “cash-out refi,” is when a mortgage is refinanced for more than what is owed and the borrower takes out the difference in cash.

Deeper definition
As you make your mortgage payments, the equity in your home increases and the balance of the mortgage decreases. You also can accrue equity if the home values in your area appreciate. If you want to access the equity in your home, a cash-out refinance is one way to do so.

There are fees associated with a cash-out refinance, such as closing costs and mortgage points. The lender may charge a higher interest rate for a cash-out refinance than for a conventional mortgage. Terms for cash-out mortgages usually vary from 10 to 30 years.

A cash-out refinance mortgage is a common alternative to the home equity loan. While home equity loans usually have lower fees, the mortgage for a cash-out refinance often has a lower interest rate. However, the home equity loan is an additional loan (and payment) on top of your regular mortgage payment. The cash-out mortgage replaces your original mortgage and mortgage payment.

Catastrophic policy

What is a catastrophic policy?
A catastrophic policy is an insurance policy that covers only serious medical emergencies and illness. In most cases, the patient is responsible for all other medical-related costs.

Deeper definition
Limited preventative care is often covered under catastrophic policies. This includes a select number of visits to your family physician or relevant specialist. Blood pressure screenings, HIV tests and other tests may be covered.

Deductibles under a catastrophic plan are harder to meet than they are with traditional health insurance plans. A majority of catastrophic plans feature deductibles that kick in only after thousands of dollars have been spent. After paying the deductible, services related to the plan go into effect. Until the deductible is met, the insured party must pay for any expenses, except those listed among approved preventative care.
Catastrophic insurance usually is available only to people under age 30. Anyone who can prove a hardship exemption may also be eligible on a monthly basis. The exemption is usually reviewed each month and cannot exceed a full year of coverage.

Certificate of occupancy

What is a certificate of occupancy?
A certificate of occupancy is a document issued by the local government that gives permission for tenants to live in a building that has recently undergone construction or renovation.

Deeper definition
A certificate of occupancy indicates that a building adheres to all of the local building and zoning laws. It serves as proof that the space is up to code and in livable condition.

There are certain situations that require a certificate of occupancy:
When a builder completes construction of a new building.
When the main purpose of a building changes.
When ownership of a commercial or multi-residential building changes ownership.

Builders must prove that their structures are habitable by securing certificates of occupancy. Without a certificate of occupancy, the title for the property cannot change hands. If an owner plans to rent a building formerly used for commercial purposes to residential tenants, a certificate of occupancy is necessary. The housing or building department of the local government maintains responsibility for issuing the certificate of occupancy.


New Annual Report Out Now!

Even in the midst of the chaos in regards to COVID-19, HOME, Inc. has something to celebrate - our 2018-2019 Annual Report is complete!

Accomplishments for the last year:

599 people received HomeBuyer Education
3,134 calls went to our counselors
50% of case management clients are minorities

“We are in the business of keeping people housed and communities vibrant. One cannot exist without the other. For more than 50 years HOME, Inc. has served individuals who face losing their home, while simultaneously reinvesting in the quantity and quality of neighborhood housing stock.” says Pam Carmichael, HOME, Inc.’s Executive Director.

We support long term planning and immediate needs. We received 1,599 new clients and 94% of those clients were able to solve their rental problems. 80% of clients we minorities and 88% of households included children. Homeownership counselors are trained to develop long-lasting relationships with families who want to achieve the American dream. For those who want to buy their first house, HOME, Inc. offers pre-purchase counseling which prepares them to budget efficiently and care for their home leading them to success.

We were able to help revitalize Des Moines neighborhoods which brought our total to 391 homes built since 1990. In 2019 alone, HOME, Inc. invested $1M+ in housing in low-income neighborhoods, $850k in new construction, and $200k in repairs to existing homes.

What a successful year! We will continue to create housing opportunities and empower families to create housing stability.

Full report here.