Rhode Island has an aging population and one of the oldest housing stocks in the country. To help the physically disabled and seniors remain in their homes, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara, D-Warwick, has introduced a bill that would provide a tax credit for improvements meant to make houses accessible.
His bill (2018-H 7142) would provide a credit against state personal income tax worth 50 percent of the renovation cost, up to a maximum of $5,000. The bill would apply to retrofits of existing houses and new homes that have accessible features.
McNamara, who was first elected in 1994, argues the loss of state tax revenue will be more than made up by lessened state expenditures on nursing home care. He spoke to the Providence Business News this week about his bill.
PBN: You first introduced the bill last session. What is the feeling this year on its passage?
MCNAMARA: We got the bill in and it was very well-received. This year, we have a lot of momentum going forward with it. The most important aspect of it is when you look at seniors who are living in our communities, it’s an increasing demographic in this state. It is much more cost-effective for government to keep people in their homes as long as possible. You make up for it at the other end, in less nursing home placements. Plus, you are building an inventory of homes that have already been modified.
PBN: Can you describe some of the modifications that would qualify for a tax credit?
MCNAMARA: Zero-step entrances, either no steps or a ramp leading up. Also, 32-inch-wide doors [to accommodate wheelchairs], and accessible bathrooms.
PBN: Explain how the tax credit is applied.
MCNAMARA: It’s 50 percent of the cost of an approved modification, which is spelled out in other statutes relating to accessibility. It goes through the qualified tax credit and would be reviewed by the Governor’s Office on Disabilities.
PBN: How much would this cost the state in revenue?
MCNAMARA: The total amount granted, in any fiscal year, would be no more than $250,000.
PBN: Is that going to be a hard sell in this current fiscal climate, when the state budget is expected to include cuts to many programs?
MCNAMARA: When we look at funding, when people are moving out of their homes, it’s an investment in the future going forward. And $250,000 may seem like a lot, but when you’re building a group of homes that will be accessible for many years in the future, you’re really building an asset that’s going to pay back in reduced payments for those nursing homes.
Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.