The vast majority of older adults prefer the option of aging in their homes and communities. However, a number of barriers hinder efforts to make this a viable option, particularly for older homeowners with low incomes. Barriers may include a high housing cost burden, inadequate home maintenance, and insufficient home modifications to accommodate health or mobility limitations. These problems are particularly acute for older adults of racial and ethnic groups that have experienced discrimination, rural residents, and women who live alone.
Home-repair and home-modification programs can eliminate or reduce the barriers to aging within the home. They also help improve energy savings and structural durability (see Chapter 10, Utilities: Telecommunications, Energy, and Other Services—Assistance Programs). In addition, such programs offer an effective means of avoiding or delaying costly institutional care while helping to preserve a community’s valuable housing stock.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prohibits home-repair contractors from arranging for loans for homeowners under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home improvement loan program. This is the result of abusive practices—for example, shoddy and incomplete work, fraudulent billing, kickbacks, and overpricing—which are especially common against older homeowners. Consumers are not adequately informed about existing protections or the danger of abuse.
Maintenance, Repair, and Modification Assistance for Older Homeowners: Policy
Funding for repairs and modifications
State and local governments should use the Home Investment Partnerships Program, Community Development Block Grants, and Medicaid waiver funds to repair and modify the residences of low-income older homeowners. Such funding assistance should include aid to increase homes’ energy efficiency.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should coordinate funding and programs for modifications to dwellings that support aging in place.
Deferred payment loan programs
States should establish deferred payment loan (DPL) programs that enable older homeowners to improve the accessibility and habitability of their homes.
States should require public utilities to dedicate some portion of earnings to a weatherization fund that offers grants and DPLs to homeowners with low and moderate incomes. Technical assistance should be available to assist older homeowners in making necessary improvements and repairs.
States should develop new programs (or expand existing ones) that complement the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program by providing improved weatherization and residential energy savings for households with low incomes (see Chapter 10, Utilities: Telecommunications, Energy and Other Services—Assistance Programs).
HUD should strictly enforce its regulations governing the Title I home improvement loan program.