Most home repair assistance programs come packaged as a loan: money you must repay over time with interest. That is not free.
Fortunately, people with low incomes or disabilities do not always have to borrow money and pay interest if their house is falling apart and they cannot afford to fix it.
Churches and charities may run outreaches in your local area, and the government offers at least six free programs to help low-income families.
Of course, disabled individuals often have low incomes but have additional ways to lower costs if they are open to creative approaches.
Free Home Repair for Low-Income
Low-income families can find free home repair assistance by attacking the problem from multiple angles, as no single program will help your fix every broken element in your house.
Low-income families can sometimes find more flexible home repair assistance from local charities and churches. However, their resources may be limited because they rely on donors and tithing.
Charities near you that help with home repairs are better suited for problems not targeted by government programs. For instance, water damage from slowly leaking pipes, windows, and roofs might be something a non-profit might be better suited to fix free of charge.
Low-income families can find better-funded home repair assistance through the government for specific needs. However, the projects typically must align with federal priorities to qualify.
Federal government grants for home repairs aim to improve energy efficiency, correct health and safety issues, or help families recover from natural disasters. Follow along as we discuss how several initiatives might replace rather than fix a faulty component.
- Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
- Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Low-Income Water Assistance Program (LIWAP)
- High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act (HEEHRA)
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Free roof replacement grants for low-income families might be available under two federal programs. You must apply at the appropriate agency to see if you qualify.
- FEMA: offers financial assistance to repair disaster-caused roof damages to withstand higher winds and help prevent water infiltration
- WAP: helps pay for roof repairs that reduce the household’s total energy expenditure or improve the health and safety issues
Free window replacement grants might help low-income families through three federal programs.
- WAP: might replace broken panes to improve energy efficiency and leaky windows for health and safety reasons (prevent mold)
- LIHEAP: could fix broken windows to reduce the consumption of gas in the winter and electricity in the summer
- FEMA: offers financial assistance to repair disaster-caused window damages to withstand higher winds and help prevent water infiltration
Free HVAC replacement system grants could help low-income families fix malfunctioning furnaces, air conditioning, and water heater equipment.
- WAP: could fix or upgrade older HVAC units to improve energy efficiency or address health and safety issues (heat in winter)
- LIHEAP: sometimes covers the cost of HVAC equipment upkeep to reduce gas and electricity bills for qualifying homeowners
- FEMA: offers assistance to raise HVAC after a natural disaster to mitigate the risks of future damage due to flooding
- HEEHRA: provides point-of-sale rebates p to $14,000 toward the purchase of heat pump-driven HVAC units to promote the use of electricity over gas
Free appliances for low-income families might work better than repairing outdated washers, dryers, stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers.
- WAP: might prioritize replacing refrigerators that consume electricity twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, over other appliances used periodically.
- LIHEAP: emphasizes refrigerators because newer units reduce electricity bills more than any updated washer, dryer, or stove.
- HEEHRA: offers rebates up to $14,000 towards heat pump clothes dryers, and electric stoves to reduce natural gas consumption.
Plumbing repair assistance might be challenging to find but could change as more federal money flows into the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).
Apply for LIHWAP by contacting your area’s utility company or human services agency. LIHWAP currently helps qualified families in three ways.
- Restores services for disconnected accounts
- Prevents disconnections for past-due accounts
- Reduces rates for current accounts
Once instituted, government benefits grow over time and rarely shrink. Therefore, your local LIHWAP provider could support plumbing repairs to prevent disconnects and reduce future water bills.
HEEHRA provides electrical system repair assistance to low-income families to ensure they can run all these new appliances, stoves, furnaces, and air conditioners without starting a house fire.
HEEHRA offers two rebates that significantly reduce costs.
- Upgraded circuit panels ($4,000)
- Electric wiring improvements ($2,500)
Low-income American Indians and Alaska Natives can obtain home repair assistance through the Department of the Interior.
The Home Improvement Program is a repair, replacement, and renovation grant administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. You must meet several criteria to qualify for this free help.
- Be a member of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe
- Live in an approved tribal service area
- Have an income that does not exceed 150% of the guidelines
- Have present housing that is substandard
- Have no other resource for housing assistance
Free Home Repair for Disabled Individuals
People with disabilities frequently qualify for free repair assistance because they meet the low-income criteria; Social Security does not pay very much. SSI, SSID, and Medicaid recipients have less obvious ways to reduce costs.
Free home repair assistance is most abundant for disabled individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because they automatically meet the low-income criteria for other government programs such as TANF, Medicaid, and others.
SSI recipients are also eligible for government home improvement grants if they meet at least one of the additional criteria.
- The Energy Savings-to-Investment Ratio (SIR) exceeds a threshold
- The project corrects an existing health and safety issue
- Convert from the consumption of gas to electricity
Additional home repair assistance might be available to disabled individuals receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) through two obscure borrowing provisions.
Personal loans for people on disability benefits can help with a home repair project and turn it into free money should you encounter financial difficulties. While you can only borrow tiny sums, lenders face restrictions should you default.
- Lenders cannot garnish Social Security disability checks
- You cannot lose your home through foreclosure because the loan is unsecured
Medically necessary home modifications are tax deductible, potentially saving you money. For instance, a disabled person might need ramps, wider doorways, lower kitchen cabinets, rigid flooring, grab bars, etc.
No credit check flooring financing becomes possible if the spouse of the disabled person has access to a Flexible Spending Account at work. The employer must immediately reimburse any qualifying expense, giving you up to 52 weeks to repay the loan with pre-tax payroll contributions, which reduces exposure to three possible levies.
- Federal income taxes
- State income taxes
- FICA payroll taxes
Free home repair assistance may be available to disabled individuals eligible for Medicaid, depending on the rules in the state where they reside. Medicaid is a federal program, but each state decides which benefits to offer.
Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) address the needs of people with functional limitations who require assistance with everyday activities and aim to keep them out of long-term care facilities.
The human services component of HCBS supports daily living and might include home safety assessments, repairs, and modifications. Contact your support coordinator to see if you qualify for these benefits.
Free home repair assistance might be available to individuals with physical disabilities in the District of Columbia (Washington DC).
The Single Family Residential Rehabilitation Program (SFRRP) grants up to $30,000 for accessibility modifications needed to adjust most physical barriers within a home for persons with mobility or other physical impairments.