by Caroline Blakely, President and CEO of Rebuilding Together
In The New York Times piece “Aging in Place” columnist Jane E. Brody discusses the very real considerations that homeowners must take into account as they age. She brings up many valid points regarding the barriers to aging-in-place for older homeowners, and provides some great recourse and ideas for facing those challenges. However, as we continue the conversation around the housing crisis facing our aging population, it is vital that we also consider the aging-in-place needs of individuals with limited income.
According to the National Council on Aging, more than 25 million Americans aged 60 and older are considered economically insecure – living at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. For older homeowners, and estimated 3.5 million are underwater on home loans and have no home equity. For these individuals, retirement communities are prohibitively expensive, and moving in with family members may not always be a valid recourse for a variety of reasons ranging from lacking financial resources to limited space in their relatives’ homes. Oftentimes, aging-in-place is the only recourse for these homeowners, and the equity built into their home remains their greatest, and perhaps only, source of wealth.
America is undoubtedly facing a housing crisis, especially when it comes to older adults. Over the course of the next two decades, the number of adults aged 70 or older will increase by 91 percent, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. This exponential spike will create a demand for housing that is both affordable, and equipped to accommodate aging-in-place residents. Housing that checks both those boxes is scant.
America’s aging housing stock is not equipped to handle the needs of its rapidly aging population. Simply put, most homes were not designed with older adults in mind. Steep staircases, too-narrow doorways and other basic housing features pose serious safety risks to older homeowners.
Aging in modern America is also a costly process, particularly as many Americans lack sufficient retirement savings to cover the cost of healthcare and other necessary expenses. Overburdened by these costs, millions of aging homeowners simply cannot afford to hire someone to make their homes more accessible through aging-in-place modifications. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, 80 percent of aging-related home modifications are paid for out-of-pocket, posing “a significant obstacle to aging-in-place for the poorest elderly, who have both the highest levels of disability and tend to live in older housing stock.”
This is why the work of organizations like Rebuilding Together is so urgently-needed. Rebuilding Together is a leading, national nonprofit working with low-income homeowners to improve the safety and health of their homes. Each year, Rebuilding Together’s local affiliates and nearly 100,000 volunteers complete about 10,000 rebuild projects nationwide.
Rebuilding Together’s services help preserve affordable homeownership and stabilize neighborhoods, empowering homeowners and their families to remain in their homes and communities.
Older adults make up the majority of homeowners served by Rebuilding Together. In 2015 alone, we worked with volunteers, partners and local community organizations across the country to provide safe and healthy home repairs and modifications for more than 5,400 homes with occupants aged 62 or older. These homeowners have lived in their homes on average more than 20 years, and want to stay put.
By installing handrails, grab bars, easy-to-operate handles and switches, nonslip flooring and improved lighting, we increase home accessibility and allow low-income older homeowners to be safer and more independent. This not only empowers them to remain in their homes, it is also cost-effective in the long term. According to the Center for Hosing Policy, studies on Medicaid expenditures have found that providing care and supportive services in peoples’ home, as opposed to a nursing home or retirement facility, resulted in savings of $22,588-$49,078 annually per individual.
As we continue the conversation around the housing crisis facing our aging population, it is critically important that we consider the aging-in-place needs of individuals with limited income, and ensure they are included in every solution that is discussed.
Today, the Montgomery County Council unanimously enacted a bill that will generate funding for additional school construction, County government projects and affordable housing. This is a huge win for Nancy Floreen, a sponsor of the legislation (which will raise about $200 million more than what the County Executive originally proposed over the next six years), Montgomery County Public Schools and the entire community.
Although we can all benefit from additional funding for schools and affordable housing, this bill will also provide rental assistance for low-income residents. While Council President Floreen understands that nobody likes the idea of increasing taxes, she enforces that “our needs are great, and the recordation tax is the most progressive approach to meet the needs our residents have clearly identified as their top priorities”. She also claims that “the recordation tax is just one piece of what I call an ‘education first’ budget that will finally give our students some long-overdue relief.” We thank all of the County Council for working tirelessly and collaboratively to determine a smart solution for generating the needed capital.
The Council’s action on Expedited Bill 15-16 generates about $200 million in Fiscal Years 2017-22 for capital projects, mostly for school capacity and building improvements, despite having to close a shortfall in State aid of more than $24 million. Also, about $5 million in additional revenue will be allocated annually for rental assistance to low and moderate income households.
The recordation tax is paid only when properties are sold or refinanced. The seller and buyer divide the cost evenly if there is no contractual agreement regarding the recordation tax payment. For first-time homebuyers, the seller pays the recordation tax, if there is no alternative agreement in the contract.
Expedited Bill 15-16 will increase the basic rate of the Recordation Tax by $1 per $500 in the sale or refinancing and the Recordation Tax Premium by $0.75 per $500 in the sale or refinancing.
The Tax Premium only applies to sales and refinancing above $500,000. To make the rate change more progressive, the Council raised the exemption for homebuyers from $50,000 to $100,000 for owner occupied homes. For example, the recordation tax on a $300,000 home would rise from $1,725 to $1,780, an increase of $55 (3.2 percent). The Council also delayed the implementation date of the bill to Sept. 1, 2016.
The funds raised by the rate change in the School Increment will be dedicated to MCPS capital projects. The new funds will allow the Council to add nearly $170 million to accommodate school capacity and building improvement needs.
For more information about Expedited Bill 15-16 , click here.
“Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.” -Author Unknown
The board and staff Rebuilding Together Montgomery County would like to thank all volunteers for donating their precious time to our mission driven work. The difficult, yet vital work that you all do does not go unnoticed. Every volunteer leaves a long lasting, positive impact on the individuals that they serve, which is why we appreciate you all so much.
On May 15th, the RTMC team and more than 150 volunteers watched the Nationals play against the Marlins at the Nationals Park. Although it was unseasonably cold, windy, the Nationals lost, we still enjoyed ourselves. You all are such an essential part of our organization. The passion and dedication that you all bring to each and every home repair really assists RTMC in helping those in need in a way that is both impactful and efficient.
Thank you for you dedication to our homeowners in need. Keep an eye out for the next Volunteer Appreciation Event!
Little RTMC volunteers enjoying good times
Sandy Spring Bank Volunteers at the top of the 7th
Washington Nationals center fielder Ben Revere (9) strikes out against the Miami Marlins
Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) and center fielder Marcell Ozuna (13) fall after colliding in the 4th
The Rebuilding Together Montgomery County Playhouse Reception and Live Auction is steadily approaching! This year’s Playhouse Project is bigger than ever before. The RTMC Playhouse Project is a fundraiser that is designed to help our organization continue maintaining affordable housing by servicing vital home repairs, accessibility modifications and energy efficiency upgrades to the homes of low-income residents in Montgomery County.
This year’s project involves the displaying and auctioning of seven unique playhouses. With two our our playhouses pre-sold to Whole Foods and one to a private buyer, the four remaining playhouses will be in high- demand.
Click here to learn more about our partnership with Whole Foods Market.
Everyone is encouraged to come to The Shops at Wisconsin Place on the eighteenth of June from 7:00 to 9:30 PM for a fun night of live entertainment, hilarious entertainment, good drinks, and good food. Get your tickets today to this fun-filled event before they sell out. Plus, it is for a good cause!
Special Thanks to our food sponsors: La Madeleine, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, The Capital Grille, Whole Foods Market and Mamma Lucia.
Rebuilding Together Montgomery County has recently been selected to be a featured in the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s 2016/2017 edition. The Catalogue for Philanthropy works to bring awareness to small charities and notable non-profits that promote good throughout the community. All nonprofits included in the Catalogue are chosen by a group of more than 100 assessors who judge the organizations’ quality of programs, leadership and impact.
To find out more about The Catalogue of Philanthropy, click here.
It is a great honor to be featured in the catalogue among other nonprofit organizations who provide a wide variety of services, from youth education and enrichment, to the arts, to basic needs, food and housing. Our feature in the Catalogue for Philanthropy will also open us up to many new opportunities—selected nonprofits are given access to training opportunities and valuable communications tools. This will only stimulate our growth and our perpetuate our ability to positively impact those in need.
Please share the great news on Facebook.
After months of careful planning and resource development work, we are proud to announce RTMC’s Hawk Handyman Program! This County Council grant-funded program gives those with experience in a variety of trades the opportunity to use their skills in a way that helps low-income homeowners in Montgomery County. The free services that our volunteer handymen provide will take care of small, but important repairs before they turn into larger, more expensive problems. Typically, those in need of minor home repairs spend a greater amount of time on our waitlist than those with more critical needs, resulting in a higher risk that their issues will get worse. If implemented correctly, the Volunteer Handyman Program should decrease the amount of time each of our clients waits for handyman services by 30%. In addition, the program will also increase the number of handyman repairs completed semi-annually by 260%.
The County Council grant along with donations from both DHCA funding and the Pettit Family Foundation will help enable RTMC to hire a full-time handyman in Q1 FY17. A step in the right direction, The Volunteer Handyman program will further reinforce everything that our mission statement by allowing us to aid more families each year while making sure that our own neighbors do not have to face losing their homes. For more information, please contact Lianna Harbeson at 301-947-9400 (ext. 102) or email@example.com.
Many thanks to the generous investments of our partners and the long time volunteer handymen who have tirelessly served our mission.
RTMC client and keynote speaker Ms. Kimberly Sorenson addresses the audience
On March 24th, Rebuilding Together Montgomery County celebrated more than two decades of investing in families, homes, and communities across Montgomery County with nearly 300 guests at RTMC’s 25th Anniversary Breakfast.
Sandra Hernandez, National COO of Rebuilding Together, and Dr. Robert King, RTMC board chairman, took to the podium as emcees at the event and guided us though an unforgettable collection of home repair, volunteer engagement and homeowner success stories. The guided tour down memory lane helped us all to see just how important the last 25 years of RTMC’s work have been to the county, to the community, and to the volunteers and sponsors who have made it all happen.
While attendees enjoyed a french toast breakfast, fresh fruit and sausage, several special guest spoke to RTMC’s strong merits and strategic partnerships. County Council President Nancy Floreen and Councilmembers Sidney Katz, Craig Rice, and Roger Berliner presented RTMC executive director Christina Betancourt Johnson with a proclamation that outlined RTMC’s significance and contributions to the County. “the work that Rebuilding Together does is critical. Your efforts help people maintain a safe, healthy and affordable place to live,” said Floreen.
Maryland Secretary of Housing and Community Development Kenneth Hope spoke to the great need across the county and the dire situations that vulnerable families face in their homes.
David Trone, CEO of Bethesda-based Total Wine & More, followed up with the importance of RTMC’s collaborative approach to engaging businesses, churches and nonprofits across the County. He then introduced the keynote speaker Kimberly Sorenson, an RTMC homeowner/client. When Sorenson took the stage and told her story, you could have heard a pin drop. She patiently recounted the challenges her family had to confront in dealing with her daughter’s battle with cancer and carefully told how RTMC made repairs to their home. According to Sorenson, “When I applied to RTMC for assistance…in addition to mold being a major factor, the heating and electrical systems were in various stages of disrepair. Smoke detectors were needed, as well as missing stair banisters and floor boards. RTMC came into my home and fixed it up – addressing more than 20 issues,” said Sorenson. “I am forever grateful for the assistance that Rebuilding Together provided and because of you, I am here today.”
There was special tribute to our much-loved co-founder Gordon Hawk by The Honorable Connie Morella, who shared a few memories and reminded us of poet Edwin Markham’s famous admonition that none goes his way alone. Morella presented the Visionary Award to his wife, Page Browning Hawk and announced the new Hawk Handyman Program which was named in Gordon’s honor.
Last but not least, awards were given to 14 faith-based organizations 4 business partners and 5 individuals whose commitment to RTMC’s mission and our communities have been outstanding. The complete list of awardees is here.
The event closed with co-founder Jay Treadwell speaking to Mother Teresa’s quote: “I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. He reminded us that creating ripples is what Rebuilding Together Montgomery County is all about. Each RTMC supporter is a stone thrower. When we volunteer we encourage others to volunteer. When we invest money to the organization we multiply our money with RTMC’s ability to leverage our investment. When we help a client, we rebuild our community…one home at a time.
Many thanks to all of the event sponsors, event attendees, volunteers, donors and partner organizations who make our work possible. Our 25th Anniversary Breakfast raised a total of $50,000 to support RTMC’s mission. Fourteen thousand of that total came from individual donations–$5000 from a matching grant, with an amazing $9000 that our friends and supporters left in the miniature tool boxes in the centerpiece of each of the tables.
Thank you to all for your commitment and here’s to the promise of another successful 25 years!
The Montgomery County Council introduced a bill that would provide seniors with tax relief and assist them with meeting their property tax obligations to the County.
The lead sponsors of Expedited Bill 10-16 are Council Vice President Roger Berliner, Councilmember Sidney Katz, and Councilmember Hans Riemer. The bill “would enable seniors 65 and older, with individual or combined gross incomes of $80,000 or less, to defer increases on property taxes on their principal residence until they sell their home. ”
The County Executive has requested that the council significantly increase property taxes, and the measure is intended to help offset the burden that the tax increase would create for older residents, who, for the most part, live on fixed income.
According to Council Vice President Berliner. “…We know that most seniors live on fixed incomes and they worry that property tax increases will force them out of their homes and out of the County. We want our seniors, the fastest growing demographic in our County, to be able to stay in their homes as long as possible. This legislation would promote that goal by giving seniors the option to defer increases on property taxes until they sell their home.”
Council President Nancy Floreen, and Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Nancy Navarro, and Craig Rice co-sponsored the bill.
RTMC has been awarded a $40,000 Nonprofit Assistance grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to support the launch of our Gordon Hawk Handyman Program. Not only will it help to get the program started, the endorsement of our effort by the DHCD will give us heightened credibility in our efforts to secure additional funding.
We’ve also been award two grants, one from Sears and the other from Lowe’s. Combined, these grants represent $25,000 in funding to support work on three homes. There is a $10,000 grant from Sears, by way of their Heroes at Home Program, which “provides support to military service members, veterans and their families through joint efforts with various nonprofit organizations”, and will assist Mr. and Mrs. Feld, who are a retired Air Force family. The $15,000 grant from Lowe’s will support work in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walker and the home of Mr. Schmidt, who need renovations to accommodate disabilities.
Lastly, RTMC would like to announce that 399 donors have supported RTMC since January 1, 2016! We’d like to thank these special individuals for their investment in our programs and services and invite them to connect with us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RTMoCo/) for real-time updates on our work in the community.
The Grille at Flower Hill, a local restaurant and Gaithersburg favorite, will be sponsoring a fundraiser this Thursday evening, April 7, starting at 6 PM to support the service project being hosted later this month by Rebuilding Together Montgomery County’s AmeriCorps service members. The Grille will generously donate 10% of all dinner sales between 6 PM and 9 PM to RTMC to help pay for the cost of the materials RTMC’s service members will need to repair a local nonprofit facility.
To successfully complete their service term, AmeriCorps service members are required to plan, develop, and execute a community service project that helps address a social problem facing the community. This year, RTMC’s service members Claire Durst and Lianna Harbeson will be leading a group of volunteers from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in repairing a facility operated by Lead4Life, a local nonprofit dedicated to reducing the number of youth entering the juvenile justice system, the number of out-of-home placements, and the youth recidivism rate. This project will not only create a more vibrant and welcoming space for Lead4Life’s clients, it will allow Lead4Life to focus its resources on what it does best, serving at-risk youth throughout Montgomery County.
“The work done by RTMC and its AmeriCorps service members is critical to improving the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors here in Montgomery County,” said Aaron Gonzales, Director of Development at Rebuilding Together Montgomery County. “This work is only possible through the help and support of civic-minded businesses like The Grille. Bill Moore and his team at The Grille never cease to amaze us with their dedication to giving back to the communities in which they live and work, and we can’t thank them enough for the support they are providing to our AmeriCorps service members.”
If you would like to help support this wonderful project, please join us at The Grille, located at 18257 Flower Hill Way, Gaithersburg, MD 20879, this Thursday anytime between 6 PM and 9 PM. You will be providing much needed support to a wonderful cause and enjoying some of the best food in town in the process.