Home is where the heart is

There’s an old saying that a person’s home is their castle. But ... home can be full of obstacles — both physical and financial.

There’s an old saying that a person’s home is their castle. But for too many people, especially seniors and persons with disabilities, home can be full of obstacles — both physical and financial.

All too often, seniors and persons with disabilities need help just getting around their own home. They may not need much — for example, a grab bar in the washroom — but these improvements cost money to install. Money they may not have.

That’s why the province announced a new housing program aimed at low-income seniors and people with disabilities. The Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI) program will help pay for home adaptations that improve accessibility and make life easier — and more independent.

That’s the great thing about the HAFI program. It will enable people to stay in their own homes and communities, whereas previously it may have been necessary to seek assisted-living accommodation elsewhere.

HAFI is jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments, via a $15 million investment over three years. Each household is eligible for financial assistance up to $20,000.

To be eligible for the program, the adaptations must directly address the household’s disability or diminished abilities. These adaptations may include improvements such as handrails in hallways or stairways, ramps for ease of access, easy to reach work and storage areas in the kitchen, lever handles on doors, walk-in showers with grab bars, or bath-tub grab bars and seats.

Eligible adaptations must also be permanent and fixed to the home, though exceptions can be made for equipment designed to give access to existing basic facilities, such as bath lifts. Of course, not everyone who needs home adaptations actually owns their own home. That’s why we ensured both homeowners and tenants would be able to apply. Landlords in the private market who wish to modify a unit rented to an eligible tenant can also apply.

It’s a great program. Everyone’s home should be their castle.

For more information on the program, please visit www.bchousing.org/HAFI. Visit Donna’s website at www.donnabarnettmla.bc.ca.

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.