How Can I Afford to Make My Home Accessible?
Posted on by John Burfield
Many people are surprised to learn common home accessibility modifications such as stair lifts, ramps, and barrier-free showers are not usually covered by most standard health insurance policies or Medicare.
It stands to reason that equipment that makes living at home safer for people with limited mobility due to injury, illness, or aging would be covered by these funding sources. Unlike standard medical equipment such as a wheelchair or commode, accessibility equipment is typically installed and attached to the structure of the home, making it ineligible for insurance or Medicare coverage under current standards.
However, this doesn’t mean that you must pay for your home modifications completely out-of-pocket or for the total cost up front. There are several options that can help cover or defer the cost of your project.
Many states offer Medicaid waiver programs that will often cover the cost of home accessibility modifications. To qualify for these waivers, you typically need to meet the income criteria to receive Medical Assistance from your state. However, state requirements and available funding will vary, so it is recommended that you contact your state’s Department of Health and Human Services to learn more about what is available in your region.
Alternative Insurance Coverage
While health insurance policies rarely cover home modifications, some auto insurance policies, worker’s compensation programs, state catastrophic accident insurance plans, or medical trust funds will pay for home modifications, especially if the disability was caused by an accident or injury. Long-term care policies may also cover seniors. Some policies allow individuals to use benefits to cover home modifications if it means the beneficiary can avoid entering an assisted living facility or nursing home.
Home Improvement Loans
Some states offer home improvement micro loans endorsed by housing authorities. Programs such as the Minnesota Housing and Finance Agency Fix-up Fund, Connecticut’s Capital for Change Home Improvement Loan Program, and Massachusetts’ Home Modification Loan Program are a few examples.
Usually, these types of loans offer friendly repayment terms, low fixed-interest rates, no prepayment penalty and lower closing costs and fees than typical home improvement loans. Check with your state housing agencies to see if similar loan products are available in your area.
Home Equity Conversion Mortgage
Homeowners that are 62 and older may be eligible for a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). A HECM enables you to take control of monthly cash flow and can provide a line of credit (LOC) that grows over time. The HECM LOC enables you to draw equity tax free, penalty free, at any time.
- No Limit on draw period
- No minimum payments required
- Lender cannot freeze or reduce loan amount
- Home NOT subject to foreclosure unless taxes or insurance is unpaid
- Borrowers and their heirs never pay more than the home’s fair market value when the loan matures
Some home modification providers can offer financing to qualified buyers in which the project is paid off in monthly installments. Usually there will be a down payment required and interest is typically applied to the monthly payment amount. Keep in mind, a buyer is subject to a credit check prior to financing approval and interest rates will be determined by their credit standing.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Housing Grants
Veterans with certain service connected disabilities can apply for housing grants to make their home accessible. These include the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant and the Special Home Adaptations (SHA) Grant. To see if you qualify, check with your local VA office.
Area Agencies on Aging
Some Area Agencies on Aging may offer home modifications as part of the services that are provided. Depending on where the individual resides, the program may offer home repair and modification services on a sliding scale or free of charge. The Eldercare Locator link will help you find your Area Agency on Aging.
Foundations and Organizations
Private foundations and non-profit organizations such as Rebuilding Together will provide home modification services. Rebuilding together offers three different programs that aid with home modifications. These include Heroes at Home, Safe at Home and National Rebuilding Month.
Crowdfunding is practice of funding a project or venture by raising funds from many people including family, friends and acquaintances in the form of donations. Online crowdfunding has gained popularity over the last decade. This is often done using popular crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe, but the concept can also be accomplished through more traditional community fundraising events.
If you are looking for an alternative funding source for your accessibility modifications, it is important to make sure that the funding source you utilize is backed by a legitimate agency, organization, or lender. When researching funding sources, look for an endorsement from a reputable organization, state housing agency, area agency on aging, or advocacy group.
When choosing a company to complete your home modifications, ask if they have experience working with alternative funding sources. Having previous experience with the sources listed above can make the whole process smoother for both parties.