In British Columbia for people who qualify, the BC Housing Home Adaptions for Independence (HAFI) Program will reimburse homeowners and landowners for renovations that make their homes more accessible. The HAFI program is a provincial government run grant program for people with diminished physical abilities. It helps low-income households pay for modifications to their home for accessibility purposes. Many past recipients were older adults but the funding is available to help people of any age and families with children. If you qualify, you could receive up to $20,000 in financial assistance. This program has helped many people receive life changing adaptations where they otherwise may not be able to afford it on their own.
Confused? Call Aquassure at 1-866-404-8827 and we can walk you through the program.
What does it cover?
The HAFI program will cover up to $20,000 of eligible home adaptions for homeowners or landlords. An additional $20,000 is available for some situations where underlying renovations need to be made to support adaptions. Additionally, in some circumstances, common areas may be eligible for adaptions up to $20,000 for one household or $40,000 for at least two households needing the adaptions.
BC Housing does not pay for the renovations. They reimburse pre-approved expenses as a no-interest loan that is forgiven over 1-3 years if certain conditions are met.
For homeowners, the person who needs adaptions must live in the home for the forgiveness period of 1-3 years. If they move and sell before that time period, then BC Housing may demand repayment of the portion of the loan not yet granted back. This would be paid from the sale of the home. Every year 1/3 of the total renovation expense is forgiven.
Landlords must agree not to raise the rent for up to 5 years and for larger amounts over $40,000, the forgiveness period may be up to 5 years.
People with diminished physical disabilities who are Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, who permanently reside in BC, and who meet the following conditions:
- Income threshold
- Applicable to BOTH Homeowners and Tenants. Does not apply to Landlords.
- The income of all members of a household are added up. This is based on last year’s tax returns. This income is compared to the 2018 Housing Income Limits (HIL) table by geographic area. The table shows studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, 3 bedroom and 4+ bedroom rates.
- This is not based on your actual number of bedrooms, but rather by household composition. A couple uses the 1 bedroom rate for their geographic area. A mother and son uses a 2 bedroom rate for their geographic area. A couple with 2 sons uses a 2 bedroom rate, but a couple with a son and a daughter, uses the 3 bedroom rate.
- The only exception to using last year’s income is if you can prove that this year’s income will be substantially lower than last year’s due to retirement, disability, etc. This will often require an appeal letter with additional documentation.
- House property value threshold
- Applicable to homeowners only. Does not apply to Landlords or Tenants.
- Look at last year’s property tax assessment. The property tax assessment must be equal to or less than the property value for your geographic area shown on the 2018 Home Value Limits table.
- The home for adaptation is your primary residence.
- Tenant or Homeowner applicant. Does not apply to Landlords.
- Add up your assets to confirm that you and your family members own less than $100,000 in financial assets.
- Financial assets like RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans), RESPs, RDSPs, RRIFs do not count.
- Do not include your primary home and car in your asset listing.
- Savings accounts, cash, bank balance, term deposits, GICs, bonds and stocks do count. So do business equity, land, and real estate (other than your primary residence).
- Must be an eligible property type
- Applies to all applicants.
- Ineligible properties may include: student housing, hospitals, nursing homes, care facilities, hotels, motels, religious institutions, recreational or seasonal properties, company housing provided to employees, on-reserve housing (exceptions include mobile homes by non-status persons), properties under construction or in foreclosure.
- Applications on behalf of strata corporations are not eligible, but people who own condos in strata developments are eligible (if they meet the other criteria).
- Housing owned or subsidized by government at any level or that received government assistance to be built is not eligible. Units occupied by those households receiving assistance through the SAFER or Rental assistance programs may be eligible.
- Most houses, condos, apartments and mobile homes are eligible, if they meet the other conditions.
- Rent level – Tenants only.
- If you are a tenant, your landlord must agree to the conditions of the HAFI program and your rent must be less than the median rent for your geographic area, according to the 2018 Rent Affordability Limits schedule.
Types of adaptions
The BC Housing HAFI program covers a wide range of adaptions to make your home more accessible for your specific diminished capacity. That means that they will only approve adaptions that are deemed necessary based on how you complete the medical section of your application. In addition, some adaptions are just not eligible. For a complete list, please scroll down to eligible adaptions on this web page: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/rental-assistance-financial-aid-for-home-modifications/home-adaptations-for-independence
BC Housing HAFI program will not pay for upgrades like special colours (unless they are to provide contrast for people with visual impairments), granite countertops, etc. It is meant to make the dwelling safer. As a homeowner, you have the option to pay the difference between what is approved and the upgraded cost. Many adaptions fit within HAFI’s eligibility guidelines and are also very attractive looking. HAFI also does not cover maintenance and home repair like roofing nor removable non-attached items like walkers and canes.
Typical renovations that HAFI will cover include:
- Replacing a regular tub with a barrier-free shower or a walk-in bathtub or slide-in bathtub.
- Replacing a low toilet with a higher toilet.
- Installation of grab bars.
- Removing carpeting or torn flooring and replacing with linoleum or vinyl plank flooring (trip hazard).
- Widening doorways to accommodate mobility equipment.
- Converting lower cupboard shelves to slide out drawers.
- Adding slide-out shelves to bathroom cupboards.
- Replacing two handled faucets with single lever fixtures.
- This may also entail, replacing the counters and/or cabinets or flooring in the bathroom to accommodate the new fixtures.
- The hot water tank may be replaced to accommodate an accessible bathtub.
- Bathroom and kitchen fans are typically not covered.
- Some lighting may be eligible but often does not qualify.
Timing and Funding:
- This program has limited funds, so allocations are made starting in April of each year until the funds are used up. Applicants are approved on a first-come, first-served basis. Most years the funding runs out by September.
- Completed applications usually take approx. 4-6 weeks to process.
- You have 30 days to appeal a denial or partial denial once you receive it. Typically, if there are still funds available, you have a high chance of winning an appeal with proper documentation and a letter explaining your need if you meet the basic income, financial and housing qualifications. You may also be asked to provide a prescription from your doctor at this point.
- You have 90 days to complete the work, once approval is received.
- You can divide the payment for work done into up to 3 payments – each requires forms to be completed and signed and sent to BC Housing. BC Housing takes from 2 weeks to 3 months to reimburse you for completed work done. You likely will have to pay your contractor, installer, materials supplier, etc. partially or in full first before you get reimbursed from HAFI.
- Some suppliers, contractors and installers will agree to wait for some or all of the payment for the job until you are reimbursed by BC Housing, but not all. BC Housing will not pay for interest or fees that you may get charged by your bank or credit card company while you wait for reimbursement. Be sure to have this conversation with your installer/contractor before you hire them.
Steps and Process:
- Decide if you are eligible.
- Decide what types of renovations you would like and would qualify for. Make a list.
- Get quotes from 1-3 contractors/suppliers/installers HAFI will fund the lowest quote you submit, so make sure they are from contractors/installers/renovators that you actually want and for similar work (apples to apples).
- Gather your supporting documentation.
- Proof of income.
- The most recent property tax assessment.
- Bank summaries showing balances.
- Statements showing all investments.
- Proof of identification and residency.
- For tenants, you will need a rental agreement showing the amount of rent.
- Completed HAFI application.
- 1-3 complete quotes from contractors/suppliers.
- Have someone familiar with the program go over your documentation.
- Submit as a package to the BC Housing program by mail or fax.
- Follow up with a phone call in 1-2 weeks to verify receipt. You will likely not get a person, and will need to leave a message.
- Call weekly until you receive a file number, and either approval or a denial/partial denial. Submit appeal by fax with appropriate (additional or missing) documentation.
- Order main parts for the job.
- Submit first installment and second installment paperwork to BC Housing, as project commences.
- Completion of project.
- Submit final installment paperwork and wait for reimbursement.