Home renovation grants for seniors in British Columbia

Home Renovation Tax Credits, Grants and Incentives for Seniors in British Columbia

If you’re a senior, home renovation tax credits, grants and incentives can ease the financial burden of upgrading or modifying your home if you require modifications for an aging-in-place strategy, accessibility or safety reasons. These programs are available to improve your quality of life, enhance accessibility, and support aging in place.

Renovation strategies for seniors

Aging in place

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people over the age of 60 has doubled since 1980. As the global population ages, the concept of “aging in place” has gained prominence as a viable and preferred option for many seniors. Rather than relocate to a nursing home or assisted living facility, as a middle-aged or senior homeowner you may choose instead to “age in place”, renovating your home so you will be able to live there independently and comfortably as you grow older.

As you plan for aging in place it’s important to consider local health and social supports, and services you may need to live safely and independently in your home for as long as you desire and/or are able.

Renovation architects and designers are embracing the principles of universal design to meet the challenges of creating bespoke aging-in-place spaces that are accessible, safe, and convenient for households of all ages and abilities. For many homeowners, the planning and design will assure independence as living needs are likely to change, and they should factor in several potential mobility scenarios later in life.

The principles of aging-in-place design focus on accessibility, safety, and convenience. They acknowledge that physical and cognitive changes typically occur as we age and seek to create comfortable living environments that accommodate the changes life can bring.

Accessibility offers barrier-free access to all areas of your home, including entrances, hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Depending on your floor plans and the number of floors, ramps, elevators or stairlifts may need to be installed. Doorways are usually widened, and steps or level changes are eliminated where possible. Traditional door knobs and light switches are replaced with lever handles and rocker switches to make things easier for residents with arthritis or limited dexterity.

Safety considerations focus on the prevention of accidents and injuries by incorporating features such as slip-resistant flooring, grab bars, and handrails. Your bathroom can also be equipped with curb-less showers, non-slip surfaces and a raised toilet to improve safety. Your house should be well-lit, especially in areas with stairs or transitions, to reduce the risk of falls.

Convenience is essential for independent living, making daily activities and tasks easier for aging adults. In the kitchen features such as adjustable-height countertops, pull-out shelves, and easily-accessible storage, touchless faucets and motion sensor lighting contribute to a more user-friendly and intuitive living environment. Physical exertion is minimized by reducing the need for reaching, bending, or stretching.

Creating inclusive spaces with universal design

In 1997, a team of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers at North Carolina State University developed the seven principles of universal design.

1. Equitable use is a principle that asserts that the home’s design must offer a user experience and aesthetic appeal that is identical or equivalent for everyone. The design avoids segregation or stigmatizing anyone so that every user can enjoy the same level of privacy, security and safety.

2. Flexibility in use facilitates a wide range of individual preferences and unique abilities, offering a choice of methods of use. The controls and interfaces must be equivalent for right- or left-handed users and accommodate users of any pace and level of precision or accuracy.

3. Simple and intuitive use refers to the components and interfaces in your home designed to be easily understood, regardless of your knowledge, level of concentration, experience, or language skills. The design must be intuitive, consistent with your expectations, and free of unnecessary complexity. User information should be arranged in a way that’s consistent with its importance, and it should be easy to understand by any adult in your home.

4. Perceptible information is a principle that addresses the way essential information is made available. It should be readable with the ambient light available, regardless of the user’s sensory abilities. It should also be presented in pictorial, verbal and tactile formats, and provide adequate contrast between the information and its immediate surroundings, to maximize legibility.

5. Tolerance for error focuses on arranging design elements to minimize any potential errors and hazards. Users are isolated and shielded from making erroneous selections, and fail-safe features are put in place to make the most used options the most accessible. Any hazards and unconscious erroneous actions are discouraged by the placement of warning notices.

6. Low physical effort shall be required, with neutral, relaxed body positions to use the doors, plumbing and electrical fixtures in the home. Repetitive actions and sustained physical effort are kept to a minimum.

7. Size and space for approach and use involves careful consideration of the appropriate size and space that will be provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use for all users. The components need to be comfortable to reach, regardless of body size, posture, or mobility, and offer a clear line of sight.

Single-floor living is another universal design concept, with one or more floors that offer a bedroom, kitchen, full bathroom, and entertainment area, with ample space for barrier-free maneuverability.

Multi-generational spaces

Rising living costs have made it challenging for young people to find affordable housing. Rental rates in British Columbia are skyrocketing, forcing many young couples to move back in with their parents or consider buying and renovating a home for a multi-generational living arrangement. Multi-generational family living has been the norm in many European countries for centuries, and it’s now gaining popularity in Canada, providing a financially, legally, and emotionally viable alternative to toughing it out in separate households.

Your family may not have any accessibility needs today, but if parents or grandparents are aging in place, incorporating universal design principles and accessibility into your renovation strategy will allow it to serve your family’s needs for many years to come. Consider having a bedroom or two, and a full bathroom, on the main level. Locating elderly family members on the main floor, while the younger generations have bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, or in the basement, supports autonomy and it can help to create useful boundaries.

Renovation tax credits, grants and incentives for seniors

BC Home Renovation Tax Credit for Seniors and Persons With Disabilities

The Government of Canada offers a Home accessibility tax credit (HATC) to any individual who has made a home improvement to increase the accessibility of their home for a senior or a person with a disability. The tax credit is non-refundable and allows claims of up the $10,000.

To be eligible, your home must be at least partially owned by you, as the qualifying applicant. The renovation must allow you or a member of your household to gain access to, or to be mobile or functional within the eligible dwelling, and reduce the risk of harm. The qualifying beneficiary of the renovation must either be 65 years old, or older or be eligible for the disability tax credit at any time in the current tax year.

British Columbia Home Renovation Tax Credit for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities

The home renovation tax credit for seniors or persons with disabilities assists individuals 65 and over, and persons with disabilities, covering some of the cost of permanent home renovations that will improve the accessibility of the home, for greater function and mobility.

Eligible applicants can fill in Canada Revenue Agency Schedule BC(S12) for home renovation expenses and attach a copy with their income tax return.

BC Rebate for Accessible Home Adaptations (BC RAHA)

The BC RAHA program closes on March 31 each year and re-opens on April 1. Eligible adaptations must directly address the permanent disability or diminished ability of the homeowner, tenant or household member. Eligible property adaptations may include:

  • Approaching and getting around the dwelling
  • Electrical, HVAC and plumbing
  • Kitchen layout and modifications to improve safety and accessibility
  • Bathroom layout and modifications to improve safety and accessibility
  • Other rooms layout and modifications to improve safety and accessibility
CleanBC Better Homes and Home Renovation Rebate Program

The CleanBC Better Homes and Home Renovation Rebate Program, available through BC Hydro, FortisBC and the Province of British Columbia, makes rebates available for select upgrades that will improve your home’s energy efficiency.

Rebate categories are heat pumps, natural gas furnaces and boilers, water heating, secondary space heating, and building envelope upgrades. Application forms must be submitted within 6 months of the invoice date of eligible upgrades.

Home owner grant for seniors

The BC homeowner grant for seniors is an ‘additional grant’ for seniors aged 65 or older. If your property is assessed at $2,150,000 or less and you meet certain requirements, you could qualify for this grant, to reduce the amount of property taxes you pay each year for your principal residence.

You must be 65 years or older and be the registered owner of the home. You must also be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada, live in BC, and occupy the home as your principal residence. If you meet these qualifications you must be named as the applicant to qualify for the additional grant for the property.

The takeaway

Property tax assistance for seniors, and home renovation grants and incentives play a vital role in supporting seniors in BC to age in place comfortably and safely. By taking advantage of these resources, you or a family member may be able to maintain your independence and quality of life while remaining in your family home for as long as possible.

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