It is easy to get behind bold vision and imagination. That is why I support Representative Patrick Murphy (D-Fl-18) who introduced HR 5254 The Senior Accessible Housing Act on May 16, 2016. This gamechanging bill provides a $30,000 tax credit for home modifications. Also deserving a shout out are original co-sponsors, Representatives Bruce Poliquin (R-Me-2) and John Conyers (D-Mi-13).* As far as I know, this is the first Federal bill to incentivize older citizens to prepare their homes for Aging in Place.**
What makes this groundbreaking?
- Most policy and programs for senior citizens focus, deservedly, on those with few resources. HR 5254 applies to folks who have the money to get the work done. The HUGE middle class.
- This credit applies to individual tax payers. Most policy for housing older citizens is for multi-family/affordable housing.***
- This program is specifically designed for upgrades to existing homes – remodeling/retrofits – rather than new homes
So…..this is groundbreaking because it is focused on the heart of the problem. Most aging and caregiving will occur in owner occupied single family homes where most older Americans want to live when they need care. These homes need to be renewed. You are right if you are thinking this doesn’t seem like it should be so hard to grasp or propose on a large scale…but it has been…until NOW.
Congressman Murphy’s interest in this topic came from AARP magazine. He tore out the article and did the work to get this bill introduced. That sounds like unusual initiative to me. Kudo’s to the type of congressperson who researches a problem and right away develops a solution!
This bill has bi-partisan support. That is not a surprise. It is about American values, doing the right thing and what older citizens want. It is also about local business opportunities for those selling and installing products and providing services to people who are aging in place. Another result is training and jobs for workers who do the installations and workers who deliver care. Updated homes support family caregivers so they are not so emotionally and financially burdened and not so likely to fall into poverty. Aging in Place is in alignment with America’s proud history independence.
Are there precedents for this legislation? Two that come immediately to mind are: 1. The solar energy tax credit responsible for some of the most rapid business and job growth in memory as well as supporting America’s independence and ingenuity, and 2. the Department of Energy’s weatherization assistance program (WAP) which has demonstrated incredible returns on investment resulting in jobs, training, energy saving and maintenance of families and homes. Some states and local jurisdictions have similar progressive programs.****
What are some benefits? The biggest benefit is happier and healthier older adults. Updated homes also mean fewer injuries, reducing the misery and $34 Billion spent annually on falls among older citizens. Better homes means those who are injured can return to their homes more quickly. Shorter rehabilitation stays save health care dollars and improve outcomes because people are happier and recover more quickly in their own homes. Better care environments reduce injuries for family/informal and paid caregivers helping households achieve aging in place longer and more safely. Aging in Place is more economical and more desirable.
What am I doing about it? I support HR 5254. I am writing this blog and providing the accompanying support letter template, asking YOU to write your congressperson in support of the bill.
I am reaching out to all my contacts and networks about Homes Renewed, the organization I lead that connects consumers, business and government stakeholders to support aging in place with ideas like HR 5254. This includes building and tech manufacturers whose product sales will increase, installers whose business will grow, service providers whose operations will become easier, more scalable and more economical, the health providers whose mandate to reduce admissions and re-admissions will be more reasonably accomplished and the health payers whose costs will be contained.
Please join me in supporting the courage, innovation and just plain sense behind HR 5254.
* As of June 20 there are 18 co-sponsors.
**Another noteworthy proposal is the Inclusive Home Design Act sponsored by Representative Jan Shakowsky (D-Il-9) applied to new homes built with federal dollars and focused on people with mobility impairment.
*** The mortgage interest deduction and VA/FHA funding programs do not focus on aging specific housing