By State Sen. Patricia Jehlen
Second Middlesex District
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
Faced with physical limitations, some seniors and people living with disabilities may have difficulty navigating their own homes safely. In some cases, they might even be forced to move away or to assisted living facilities. The Massachusetts Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP) provides another option, the option of living independently and safely.
In our neighborhoods, the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP) administers funds on behalf of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. This state-funded program provides loans to seniors and those living with disabilities to undergo needed modifications to their homes. The modifications are necessary not only for convenience but also for safety and health, as research by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that home modifications and repairs may prevent 30% to 50% of all home accidents among seniors.
The HMLP can make expensive changes affordable to individuals or families who truly need accessibility to live more comfortably in their own home by removing the everyday obstacles that make getting around difficult. The simple widening of doorways, altering bathrooms or adding an entry ramp can make an astounding difference, allowing an elderly or disabled person to stay in the home they love.
As of March 2013, CEDAC and its cooperating agencies (including MBHP) have closed 1781 loans valued at $39.4 million since the program inception in 2000. Twenty-two percent (386) of those loans went to elders. Since April 2005 (when CEDAC started collecting more detailed information), 216 loans to elderly homeowners – valued at over $4 million – were closed. In Somerville alone $116, 415 has gone to modifying homes.
The loans provided by the HMLP are affordable—no- or low-interest. The program provides both deferred payment loans (DPL) and amortized loans. No-interest loans from HMLP do not have to be repaid until the sale of the home or a transfer of the title. The low interest loans from HMLP can be repaid in monthly increments over 5 to 15 years, at a rate of only 3% interest. These low costs allow families to invest now in making their homes accessible without the anxiety of high payments.
Homeowners are eligible for a loan if they or a member of their household is living with a disability. Additionally, landlords are eligible if they would like to make modifications to assist a tenant. The HMLP provides funding of up to $30,000 for modifications.
Living in your own home is a comfort that all of us deserve. The HMLP can help remove the barriers to allow the comfort of home to those who need it most.
The MBHP will be hosting an information session, “Housing Challenges and Opportunities: Partnering for Innovative Solutions,” on May 17th from 8:30 – 10:00am at the Walnut Street Center, 35 Charlestown Street, Somerville. For more information about the HMLP you can visit www.mbhp.org (under programs).