COLUMBUS – As tax filing day nears, State Rep. Michael Stinziano (D- Columbus) continues his push for bipartisan legislation that would create a state tax credit to improve accessibility for senior citizens and disabled persons living independently in their homes.
The bill provides state tax credits for building, purchasing or remodeling homes that incorporate universal design features. Universal design features increase the accessibility for elderly and disabled Ohioans through specific structural changes.
“As the tax filing season comes to a close, I’m reminded that homes that include accessibility features allow Ohioans to live longer in their homes,” said Rep. Stinziano, who introduced the measure last year with state Rep. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City.
“This proposed tax credit will create an incentive for homeowners and contractors to incorporate the universal designs that will make Ohio homes more livable, comfortable and safer for independent living,” Stinziano said. “I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan proposal.”
Examples of universal design features that increase the accessibility of homes for senior and disabled Ohioans include:
· Route to a zero-step entrance into the residence
· Doors with at least 32 inches of clear width
· Hallways and passages with at least 36 inches of clear width
· Sensory Modifications (Alarms, appliances and controls designed to assist sensory disabled persons)
According to Stinziano, remodeling of homes is essential to promote independent living because older Americans tend to occupy homes that were constructed in earlier decades when physical accessibility was not a priority for homebuilders. It is estimated that more than one million older adults reside in homes that present challenges to meeting their physical needs, Stinziano said.
“Falls and fall-related injury seriously affect older adults’ quality of life and present a substantial burden to the Ohio health-care system,” Stinziano said. “Universal design features have also been shown to reduce the incidence of falls among older adults and have the potential of saving millions of dollars in medical costs.”
According to the Ohio Department of Health, between 2000 and 2010, Ohioans aged 65 and older experienced a 164 percent increase in the number of fatal falls. It is estimated that fall-related hospitalizations cost Ohioans nearly $300 million per year in medical expenses.
A taxpayer that renovates their existing residence with universal designs is eligible for a tax credit up to 50 percent of the total cost of the renovation up to $1,000. A taxpayer who purchases or constructs a new residence with universal designs is eligible for tax credit up to $2,500.
Several other states including Virginia (1999), Georgia (1999) and Pennsylvania (2006) have enacted changes to their tax code to improve safety and accessibility for the disabled and older adults. Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly unanimously voted to expand its Livable Homes Credit for a third time.