British Columbia: BC Housing Home Adaptions for Independence Program

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.

Who qualifies?

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.
  • Assets
    • 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:

  1. Decide if you are eligible.
  2. Decide what types of renovations you would like and would qualify for. Make a list.
  3. 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).
  4. Gather your supporting documentation.
    1. Proof of income.
    2. The most recent property tax assessment.
    3. Bank summaries showing balances.
    4. Statements showing all investments.
    5. Proof of identification and residency.
    6. For tenants, you will need a rental agreement showing the amount of rent.
    7. Completed HAFI application.
    8. 1-3 complete quotes from contractors/suppliers.
  5. Have someone familiar with the program go over your documentation.
  6. Submit as a package to the BC Housing program by mail or fax.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Order main parts for the job.
  10. Submit first installment and second installment paperwork to BC Housing, as project commences.
  11. Completion of project.
  12. Submit final installment paperwork and wait for reimbursement.

Choosing a walk-in bathtub – Part 2: Bather Considerations

This second part looks at who will be using the tub and makes recommendations based on the bather’s mobility and bather preferences and types of bathing systems available.

Is a walk-in tub right for you?Woman exiting Walk-in BathtubWalk-in bathtubs require the bather to be able to walk to enter and exit the bathtub. If the bather has declining mobility or a high likelihood of needing assistance to bathe, then a walk-in bathtub might not be the right choice. A better choice might be a barrier-free shower or a slide-in bathtub, like the Active Living Spa tub. Continue reading

Choosing a Walk-in or Accessible Bathtub – Part 1: Product Choices

Best Bath Woman in blue robeBuying an Accessible Bathtub is a major decision. It involves a substantial amount of money, and the inconvenience of a bathroom renovation. It is important to fully research the options before you make a decision.

There are four main areas to look at: product choices, the bather, installation and feature/benefit considerations. We will be exploring these four areas in the next four blogs.

Continue reading

BC Funding Options for Accessibility Renovations

When the time comes to make some changes to our homes to make them safe and accessible, we need to figure out how to pay for it. In BC, we are fortunate to have some tax credits available that ultimately reduce the overall costs, as well as a non-repayable grant for those that qualify. Continue reading

Exhaustion to Stroke: Why Summer Safety Is Important

With the official calendar start of summer just past, the Okanagan has embraced summer and is heating up, bringing in those sunny skies and climbing temperatures. Whether you love the sun and are ready to swim, or you’re just counting down the minutes until you can stand in front of an air conditioner again, it’s important to recognize the dangers of the sun and the heat it provides, and be ready to protect yourself and others. Continue reading

Redoing Your Bathroom: A Quick Guide

So you’ve decided to renovate your bathroom. You want to ensure your family’s safety in the coming years and are planning to install a more accessible solution for bathing. There are a lot of options on the market today, and a lot of things to look at. You need to decide budget, ensure you’re getting the right installer, and decide on what product(s) you’re looking for, what you want, and compare it to what you really need. How do you get it all done without stress?

At Aquassure our goal is to get you in the tub or shower that melds your wants with your needs and leaves you feeling safe and as stress free as possible. Very few people take renovation by the horns and relish every second of it, so we’ve found some questions and tips that can help make the experience easier to manage and give you a stepping off point. Continue reading

Things to consider when purchasing a Walk-in Bathtub

Walk in tubs are a great option for people who are finding that getting in and out of a traditional bathtub is difficult or impossible.

Generally walk-in tubs are put in the place of the existing bathtub. Many look pretty similar, but there are some important considerations.

1. You need to be able to walk to use a walk in tub! If you cannot walk unassisted, have bad foot drop, expect to be wheelchair bound in the future, or need to bath children in the tub, the walk in tub is probably not the best choice. Instead,  consider a slide in bathtub, like the ADL Spa tub.

2. Walk in tubs work best for those that like to bath, but want to have the option for a standup or seated shower too. If you only shower, consider an accessible shower with a seat instead. If you prefer to bath, then the ADL Spa tub gives you a full size bathtub, with a seated shower.

3. Swing out or swing in door. Swing out doors require more clearance in front of the tub and may burst open and flood the room (and the downstairs) if you fail to latch it properly.  They often require you to drop a latch pin in and if you forget, the door may fail. Swing in doors require the bather to step around the door when entering or exiting the tub. Best Bath has a fold up seat to give the bather lots of room to open and close the door without sacrificing seat or door size.

4. Walk-in Tubs range from around $3000 – to over $25000. Most cost in the $6-$10000 range. Be aware that price doesn’t always equal quality. Tubs in both the lower and upper price ranges suffer from quality, poor design and warranty problems. The company selling the tub should be able to give you a price range on the phone and should have printed price lists available. Some rely on high-pressure in-home sales tactics instead of honest pricing. Installation can vary depending on the bathroom, speed of install, local building permit costs and finishing work needed, but most installations are under $3500.

5. Make sure your tub and fixtures comply with local building and plumbing codes. They should be Iapmo or C-UPC or equivilent certified. Non-certified plumbing fixtures may affect your insurance and may be prohibited by your strata. All walk-in tubs require a  secondary drain in the door track to be certified.

6. Get the measurements of the tub – both inside and outside.

How wide is the tub? Many tubs will not fit through narrow doorways and hallways. Before you buy, measure the doorways into the bathroom and make sure your tub will fit. The Liberty tub will fit through a 27″ doorway and the ADL Spa will fit through a 25″ doorway.

How big is the door of the tub? Can you easily walk through it? (hip width).

How big is the seat – width and depth. If it is too small, it can be very uncomfortable.

How high is the seat? Some tubs have seats that are only 9″ high. Generally most people require that the seat be at least 16″ in order to stand up.

What is the water depth above the seat (to the overflow)? Some tubs only have 3-4″ above the seat in water depth.

How much water does it take to fill the tub? More water means a deeper soak, but with large models, you may need to replace your hot water tank and it may take a long time to fill.

6. Fill and drain time. It is important to ask how long the tub takes to fill and drain. It varies by water pressure, but some fixtures fill faster than others. Best Bath walk-in tubs fill and drain in 6-8 minutes, others, like some hardware store discount tubs, take over 15 minutes to fill and drain.

6. Look for sturdy construction with a written warranty. Not just a guarantee.

7. Check out the company selling the tub. Do they have a physical office? Can you see a tub model? Many companies in this industry have terrible reputations. A good start is to look at their Better Business Bureau rating.

8. You don’t want to get chilled while bathing.  A heated seat can help keep the bather warm during filling and draining. Heated air and/or water jets keep the jets from cooling off the water. Many jetted systems are not heated, and this can cool the bathwater.