Livable home tax credit is good legislation
Even by the most current Census Bureau data provided by the state Department of Elderly Affairs, which in itself approaches ancient history by today’s standards, as of 2006 23.6 percent of the state’s population, or 252,000 of us, were 55 years old or older. That ranks Rhode Island as ninth in the country for population in this age category.
The ranking drops as the age category climbs to the point where the state is fourth with about 83,000 of its residents 75 years old and older. That was the reading as of 11 years ago.
As the saying goes, we aren’t getting any younger, and our guess is that an even higher percentage of the state’s population is 75 years old or older. It certainly looks that way according to Suburban Stats for 2016 and 2017 that in a breakdown of state demographics indicate of the state’s population of one million, 413,600 are 60 years old or older. Of these 148,993 are living in single-family homes.
Elderly living in single-family homes are the intended beneficiaries of legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Joseph McNamara and in the Senate by Sen. Walter Felag Jr. dubbed the “livable home tax credit.” The intended objective of the measure that has the support of the AARP of Rhode Island is to provide tax relief to elderly and disabled who make home modifications so that they might continue living at home. Modifications listed in the legislation include widening of doors, accessible bathrooms, sidewalk and entry improvements to minimize the risk of falls, stair lifts and a number of other renovations. Under the bill, 50 percent of the cost of those modifications up to a total of $5,000 could be used as a state income tax credit.
The legislation caps the lost income tax revenue at $250,000 for a single year.
What would be the return?
The intention is to enable older and disabled Rhode Islanders to live independently in their homes and to reduce the financial burden of making these modifications.
Similar legislation has been implemented in other states including Virginia and Maryland, where it has been effective in helping people to stay in their homes. A key consideration is a reduction in falls that is a leading cause of injury leading to hospitalization and rehabilitation – and in some cases to the end of life residency – in nursing homes.
Quality of life is difficult to measure, but surely as long as the elderly are capable and seeking to maintain independence, living at home in a familiar environment seems preferable to an institution. And yet, too, there’s a taxpayer benefit with a reduction in Medicaid.
Livable home tax credits are a low cost mechanism to support the community while enabling the elderly to safely maintain their independence and a comfortable way of life. This is good legislation.