Skip to content

Barbara & Dan – from impasse to solution

Barbara and Dan moved to their home in Amherst in 2007 with an eye toward the future, as they hope to reside in it for as long as they can. But in recent years, Dan, who has a heart condition, ran into challenges.

“I’m having some problems with mobility,” says Dan, a freelance writer who uses their large basement every day. “I have a lot of communications with people and so forth. But I was losing a lot of time, just moving around and getting tired, you know, all that kind of stuff.”

The couple wanted to install an accessible bathroom in the basement and a stairlift between the first floor and basement. But the price tag kept these dreams out of reach.

“We thought about it and thought about it, and tried to squeeze some money together, but we had an impasse,” says Dan, of their financial situation. “We don’t have a lot of income. Whenever you go for a loan they say, ‘What’s your income?’ Hey, I’m 80 years old! We live off savings. You dip into it too much, you think, what’s going to happen when there’s no savings to draw on?”

The couple read about the Way Finders Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP) through the Amherst senior bulletin, then met a woman at the senior center who had used the program, to rave reviews. They soon connected with Way Finders Homeownership & Financial Education Manager Araceli Rivera. As they learned more, the program seemed almost too good to be true.

“We kept going back and saying, ‘Wait, maybe we need to reread this. Could this possibly be what we think it is?’ And it was!” says Barbara.

Today, they have their own glowing story to recount.

“It’s like a godsend,” says Barbara, of the modifications they made. “It was exactly what we needed to improve Dan’s quality of life. He doesn’t have to put a half hour aside to get a glass of water.”

“Having a bathroom downstairs that is big and suitable means I can take showers,” says Dan. “And going up and down in the chair is just a terrific relief from having to agonize your way up and down.”

Funded by the state, the Home Modification Loan Program aims to help seniors and individuals with disabilities to live more independently, safely, and comfortably at home. It provides financing—a 0% interest, deferred payment loan up to $50,000—to homeowners or landlords so they can adapt or modify a home for increased accessibility, such as in the kitchen or bathroom. Other eligible projects include ramps, stairlifts, fencing, sensory spaces, and hardwired alarm systems.

General home repairs are not eligible; the modification needs to directly relate to a person’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis, as documented by a professional.

Those who receive funding are not required to make monthly payments. Payment of the HMLP loan is required only when the property is sold or the property title is transferred to someone else or to a Trust (or if any condition of the loan agreement is not met).

The key to helping Barbara and Dan navigate the steps that precede construction (complete an HMLP application, identify a qualified general contractor, complete loan documents)? Araceli Rivera.

“I am not exaggerating anything that I’m about to say,” Barbara says, of working with Araceli. “I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive person, who was very clear with instructions. She was always there. If I left a message, I got the call back right away. She must have bottomless patience.”

“Superlative!” Dan chimes in. “I think it’s an example of a government program which is a well-conceived, well-executed, and has good results, both for us and for the government.”

“I encourage anyone who might be eligible to apply and not hesitate,” says Barbara. “It’s a wonderful program.”