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Did You Know: Home Modification Loan Program Can Benefit Individuals with Autism and Dementia?

Established by the State Legislature in 1999, Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP) is a lending program that finances housing adaptations or modifications to improve accessibility for seniors and individuals with disabilities. These modifications allow the household member to live more independently in the community. CEDAC works in cooperation with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to administer the program, and six non-profit regional Provider Agencies work directly with applicants (visit to learn more about the application process).


More than Physical Disabilities

People most often associate disabilities with just physical limitations. The Center for Disease Control’s Disability and Health Data System 2014 profile of Massachusetts reports 22.5% of adults in Massachusetts have a disability. However, when breaking down this snapshot further, just over half (12.3%) of these Massachusetts adults have a cognitive disability. Though HMLP is most commonly used to fund the addition of ramps and lifts, kitchen and bathroom modifications, and the widening of doorways, there are also necessary modifications that benefit persons with cognitive disabilities.

In 2008, the housing community recognized the needs of this population and expanded the scope of HMLP to allow for people with cognitive and neurological limitations to benefit from the program. Since then, we have funded changes that ensure a safer environment, including the installation of a hard-wired alarm system for doors and windows to aide in preventing the household member from wandering away from home. Some applicants have also focused their efforts on ensuring the kitchen is a safer environment by installing locked cabinets, modifying the oven or removing a gas stove. The program has had a substantial impact on the families as well as the individual benefiting from the modification, including families with children on the autism spectrum.


HMLP and Autism

The Center for Disease Control reports about 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder in the United States. According to the Children with Special Health Care Needs Program survey in 2016, 17.3% of Massachusetts children with special health care needs between the ages of 2 and 17 have developmental delays. HMLP has assisted families ensure greater safety for these children’s spaces by providing funding for fencing to prevent bolting or wandering away from home, installation of special drainage in the bathroom or replacing windows with special break and shatter resistant windows. The program has also assisted these families with creating a sensory space, designed to help individuals develop and engage their senses and work on sensory integration therapy or strategies to address behavioral issues. Often modifications such as these can make all the difference in keeping a family member at home as opposed to relocating them to a more costly long-term health care facility or alternative group housing.


Accessory Dwelling Units

Recently we’ve worked closely with state partners and the autism community to stress how the program can be used to create accessory dwelling units, which often times allow multiple generations to live in closer proximity to one another, but still maintain independence. The creation of this type of living space is important for households with any disability.

The Home Modification Loan Program remains a dynamic program and continues to evolve and adjust to the needs of Massachusetts residents who have a household member with complex medical needs. The program is up for reauthorization in the Housing Bond Bill, and, through discussions with state partners, the program is poised to make some additional adjustments to better serve disabled residents of Massachusetts. Stay tuned!


The photo above is courtesy of Colin’s family. In the spring of 2015, HMLP funded the conversion a three season porch into a therapy room for Colin. Colin’s parents saw improvements in his behaviors after just a few weeks.


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