Page Reviewed / Updated - Feb. 2017
The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) supports seniors through their Home Modification Program. By subsidizing the cost of home modifications, seniors can afford the cost of these residential improvements for their safety and comfort, allowing them to continue living at home. Conceptually, by providing limited financial assistance to seniors to help them continue to reside in their homes, the state will save money in the long term by preventing the unnecessary placement of seniors in Medicaid funded nursing homes.
Several of other state supported programs help Illinois residents with home repairs, such as SFOOR or Weatherization Assistance. For seniors looking to optimize scarce resources, The Home Modification Program is better used for modifications that enable frail elderly persons to prevent falls and improve independence. Several examples can help illustrate this concept. A walk in tub replacement for a shower can improve access and reduce the risk of dangerous falls. A stair lift can help persons with limited mobility re-gain access to their entire house (especially important when one bath or one bedroom is located on a separate floor). A wheelchair ramp and internal widening of doorways can enable wheelchair access throughout the house.
Age - while not strictly limited to the elderly, this program is intended for persons 65 or older. Persons younger and officially designated as disabled by the Social Security Office are also eligible.
Income - the applicant's household income must be less than 50% of the median household income for their geographic area. Over the past five years, the median income for Illinois on the whole was approximately $57,000. Therefore, most households with annual income of less than $28,000 will meet this criteria.
To find the median income for your geographic area, look at the US Census webpage, then enter your state and county and look for the row for "Median household income".
Home Ownership - the applicant must own their home and reside in their home.
Home Modification Need - applicants must have a documented need for the home modification. Some modifications are obvious such as the addition of a wheelchair ramp. Others, such as changing bathroom and kitchen knobs to levers to accommodate the reduced strength of an elderly person, are more subtle and may require a written explanation by a doctor, licensed contractor or certified aging in place specialist.
Benefits come in the form of cash assistance provided as a "forgivable loan." Essentially, this is a grant that does not have to be re-paid, except if certain situations apply. For example, if the money is used for some other purpose than the proposed modification or if the homeowner sells their home before a specified period has elapsed.
The maximum amount of assistance is capped, depending on the area of Illinois in which one resides. In 2016, the caps are set at $15,000 for rural areas of the state and at $25,000 for urban areas.
The Illinois Housing Development Authority is the larger authority behind this program, but it is administered locally by 19 Home Modification Program agencies. A complete list of which is available for download here. One should contact the agency that has oversight of the county in which they reside.