Financial help for home modifications

A BC Housing program helps low-income B.C. seniors and people with disabilities make home modifications

A big thanks to BC Housing for responding to my column on falls and the elderly by providing details on a new program for low-income seniors to make home modifications for continued independence.

The next column addresses risk factors of falls followed by falls-prevention strategies by Dale Graham, physiotherapist and FallsProof program facilitator.

Would a new ramp, handrails or walk-in shower help you maintain your independence at home?

BC Housing’s new Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI) program helps low-income B.C. seniors and people with disabilities make home modifications that will allow them to continue living at home.

Through HAFI, homeowners and landlords with eligible tenants can apply for financial assistance of up to $20,000 for improvements that make their home more accessible and safe.

The goal of the program is to enable people who have physical limitations to live at home longer. People’s physical needs change over time — sometimes, a small improvement to a home can make the difference between being able to live independently or not.

Types of eligible projects include:

• Handrails in hallways or stairways,

• Ramps for ease of access,

• Easy-to-reach work or storage areas in the kitchen,

• Lever handles on doors,

• Walk-in showers with grab bars, and

• Bathtub grab-bars and seats.

The projects must be permanent and fixed to the home, although exceptions can be made for equipment that gives access to an existing part of the home (e.g. a bath lift). The program will not cover supportive care, portable aids such as walkers, household appliances, emergency repairs to roofs and furnaces, or maintenance work.

Launched in January 2012, HAFI is funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia through the Canada-B.C. Affordable Housing Initiative.

Through the HAFI program, $15 million in grants or forgivable loans will be distributed to qualifying B.C. residents over the next three years.

To qualify for assistance from HAFI, recipients must be a low-income senior or person with a disability, a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, and a B.C. resident. Someone in the household must have a permanent disability or loss of ability that makes it difficult to perform day-to-day activities.

As well, the total household income and assets must be below a certain limit. BC Housing can tell you the income and house value limits for your area when you apply.

The program is open to both homeowners and those living in market rental accommodation where rents are at the low end of market levels; landlords must apply for improvements on behalf of eligible tenants.

Eligibility requirements, an application guide and application forms are available at www.bchousing.org/HAFI, by calling BC Housing at 604-646-7055, by e-mailing hafi@bchousing.org, or visiting any BC Housing office.

For those outside the Lower Mainland, you can also call BC Housing toll free at 1-800-407-7757, extension 7055.

For more information about the program, visit www.bchousing.org/HAFI.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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