rehab assistance: overview » rehab assistance program types
Goal: Increase the Availability of Affordable Homes
Role: Help Residents Succeed
Policy: Provide Homeowner Rehab Assistance

Using homeowner rehab assistance to improve accessibility, energy efficiency and disaster-resistance
Some communities offer homeowner rehab assistance programs that help to achieve more targeted goals beyond ensuring the habitability of low- and moderate-income families' homes. For example, some programs support home modifications that enable older adults to stay in their homes as they age; others are aimed at increasing the energy efficiency of existing homes to improve indoor environmental quality and lower utility bills. In disaster-prone areas, homeowner rehab programs can target efforts to reinforce properties to withstand storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Photo Credit: Rick Keating, courtesy of King County Housing Authority
Click on the links below to learn more about programs that use homeowner rehab assistance to improve:

Accessibility - Rehab assistance programs can be designed to remove physical barriers inside the home.

Energy efficiency - Many home improvements can help homeowners save energy and long-term energy costs.

Disaster Resistance - Homeowner rehab programs can target upgrades to mitigate damage to homes in disaster-prone areas.


The number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to more than double from 40 million to 81 million by 2040. [1] As they age, many adults face physical barriers to maintaining or getting around their home. Home modifications help to address these barriers, which may be associated with using the stairs, entering and exiting, bathing, and meeting other daily needs. Modifications help to ensure that staying in ones' home remains a safe and viable option.

For some older households, however, home modifications can also be extremely cost prohibitive, and emerging evidence suggests that the housing market downturn may discourage older adults from moving to a new home that might better fit their physical needs. [2]

Homeownership rehab assistance or emergency repair funds can encourage safe aging in place by reducing or eliminating the cost of modifications necessary for residents to stay in their home. Some programs specifically target home modifications for older adults; in other cases, modifications may be eligible for assistance if the planned improvements bring the property up to code standards or if the condition of the property poses safety hazards. In Tallahassee, Florida, for example, the Emergency Home Repair Program (EHRP) supports emergency repairs and accessibility improvements to homes owned and occupied by income-eligible persons. Up to $10,000 in grants can be made available for accessibility improvements that include wheelchair ramps, hand railings, grab bars, kitchen and bathroom adaptations, or doorway widening. Click here to leave this site and read more about EHRP.

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Energy efficiency

Between 2005 and 2008, home utility costs rose by nearly 23 percent, more than double the rate of overall inflation. [3] For low- and moderate-income families that live in older, less efficient homes, energy-saving improvements -- such as installing energy efficient windows, sealing air leaks, adding insulation and other general weatherization measures -- can yield significant long-term utility savings. Many families, however, cannot afford the up-front costs associated with these repairs.

While many homeownership rehab assistance programs only cover the costs associated with energy saving home improvements that may be necessary to help bring a property up to code, other homeowner rehab assistance programs specifically target energy efficiency retrofits. For example, the Energy Efficiency Rehabilitation Assistance Program (EERAP) in New Haven, CT offers financial assistance for low- and moderate- income homeowners, or owners of low- and moderate- income rental homes (for buildings with 1-4 units), to undertake weatherization activities and other home repairs that improve home energy efficiency. Funding ranges from $10,000- $25,000 in the form of low-interest deferred loans. Click here for more information about EERAP.

In addition to being available through homeowner rehab assistance programs, assistance for low- and moderate-income homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements is also available through the Department of
The Weatherization, Rehab, and Asset Preservation (WRAP) demonstration program, launched in 2002, tested the feasibility of leveraging homeowner rehab assistance by coordinating rehab funds with assistance from two federal energy efficiency programs: the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). An evaluation of the demonstration project, implemented in 11 communities, identified impediments to using the funds in a coordinated manner, including variation in the programs' income eligibility thresholds and the agencies charged with administering the programs and mismatched timelines for funding and expenditures across programs.

Although these barriers hindered efforts to coordinate funding sources, the study emphasized the importance of such efforts. Low-income homeowners benefit from combining multiple forms of assistance in part because on their own, the existing programs are not comprehensive enough to meet the full range of home rehab and weatherization needs. Data gathered during the evaluation found positive impacts of WRAP retrofits. Home improvements increased the usable area of the rehabbed homes by almost one-fifth, increasing access to rooms that had previously been closed off due to cold conditions in the winter. In addition, over 70 households reported increased safety and health of occupants after rehab and weatherization efforts.

Click here to read more about federal programs to improve home energy efficiency.
Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the Department of Health and Human Services' Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Please view the text box to learn about efforts to coordinate homeownership rehab assistance programs with WAP and LIHEAP (see blue text box).

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Disaster Resistance

Homeowner rehab programs can target upgrades to mitigate damage to homes in areas vulnerable to weather-related hazards. There are a range of building, rehab and retrofitting options that can make homes more resilient to high winds, heavy rains and floods. This includes strengthening roofs and windows for wind resistance; raising homes that lie in the floodplain or other vulnerable areas; creating mechanisms that help divert or mitigate the damage of flood waters; making homes more water resistance to rain and floods.

States and localities can offer a range of homeowner rehab programs to assist low- and moderate-income households that may have difficulty paying for the necessary home mitigation measures. For example, the Florida's My Safe Florida Home program provides grants to individual households to cover or defray the costs of retrofits to help prevent hurricane damage to the home. Click here to leave this site and read more about My Safe Florida program.

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Programs that use homeowner rehab assistance to improve accessibility, energy efficiency and disaster resistance.

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Funding sources for homeowner rehab assistance programs

[1] Projections of the Population by Selected Age Groups and Sex for the United States: 2010–2050. Aug. 14, 2008. Table 2. Washington, DC: Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau.
[2] Effect of the Economy on Housing Choices. [PDF] 2009. By Jean Koppen. Washington, DC: AARP.
Housing Affordability Trends for Working Households: Affordability Worsens Despite Decline in Home Prices. [PDF] 2009. By
Keith Wardrip. Washington, DC: Center for Housing Policy.