Bill would subsidize home improvements
In May, United States Representative Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), along with co-sponsors Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) and Daniel Meuser (R-PA), introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to provide tax incentives so that older adults and people with disabilities can make the modifications necessary to age in place safely in their own homes.
“Given the option, the vast majority of seniors and people with disabilities want to stay in their own home for as long as possible. It’s more comfortable, less costly and improves quality of life,” said Rep. Crist in a press release. “Unfortunately, many homes lack accessibility upgrades to make [living in place] a reality for seniors on fixed incomes and people with disabilities.”
The Home Modification for Accessibility Act (HR7676) offsets the costs of needed home modifications in one of two ways: Those under the age of 59½ can make a penalty-free and federal income-tax free early withdrawal of up to $30,000 from their tax-deferred retirement accounts to make aging in place improvements.
Those over 59½ can take a deduction for up to $30,000 for the same improvements, and may use the deduction even if they don’t otherwise itemize.
A person may take advantage of each benefit over a period of years, but each individual is subject to a lifetime $30,000 maximum benefit from both provisions. That suggests couples may be able to spend up to $60,000 in modifying their home for aging under the bill as currently drafted.
Multiple benefits to homeowners
According to the bill sponsors, HR7676 is an important step toward providing older adults the opportunity to age in place for longer than they might otherwise. “We have a storm coming, with the number of disabled elders expected to double in the coming years,” said Suozzi in a press release.
By making such home modifications more affordable, the bill will benefit older adults in two ways: by delaying or eliminating the need to move to an assisted living facility, and also by reducing the likelihood of falls at home.
Installing grab bars, widening hallways and changing heights of counters, among other modifications, cost an average of $5,000. A fall can lead to a hospital stay, which can cost an individual $30,000.
All told, falls cost an estimated $50 billion each year. Approximately 75% of these costs are paid by Medicare and Medicaid.
The HomesRenewed Coalition, which supports the bill, believes that updated homes can help the country avoid a crisis in the housing and care of older adults.
They cite a study by Johns Hopkins University, The Community Aging in Place—Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE), which found that modest home improvements can substantially reduce expensive hospital stays and rehabilitation for people with functional limitations and chronic conditions.
“This bill will help correct a fundamental injustice in American life. While we’re living longer and healthcare is increasingly conducted at home, the country’s housing stock is not meeting our daily and safety needs,” said Louis Tenenbaum, founder and president of HomesRenewed Coalition, in a press release.
“Incentives outlined in this bill will encourage people to demand building and renovation designs that support aging in place with joy, dignity and independence.”
For more information about HR7676, visit www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/7676/. To support House action on this bill, contact your Representative.