He shakes his head in disbelief as he sits in his living room holding the bill.
Harold Brydon of Somerset is frustrated that, as a senior citizen who has paid taxes for decades, he couldn’t get any financial help from Housing Nova Scotia to fix his deteriorating roof.
“Here I am 79 years old, paid my taxes all my life, and then when I need help, it isn’t there, and that’s not right,” Brydon said.
Brydon, who faces mobility challenges, hired the carpenter who originally built the house to do the roof work. Only the south side needed to be replaced but Brydon said he ended up spending most of his savings paying the $4,264.20 bill.
Brydon, who used to work as a Halifax Regional Police officer and as a civilian employee at 14 Wing Greenwood, said his wife has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home. He has only his pension income to depend on.
He thought there was a system in place to help senior citizens such as himself pay for emergency home repairs such as roofing. Brydon said he thinks the caseworker handling his application was quick to dismiss his concerns and left Brydon feeling like a second-class citizen. He doesn’t think the situation is fair.
“The way I look at it, a government employee is really my employee because I pay taxes and he’s really working on my behalf and I’m paying his wages in a roundabout way,” Brydon said.
He said everyone else around his age seems to be able to get assistance when it comes to government grants for home repairs but not him. He said he has never asked the government for help with anything before in his life and it looked to him that he would be eligible for a grant. However, he was told the funding wasn’t available. Brydon said it was as if he had asked the caseworker to pay for it out of his own pocket.
Brydon said the caseworker told him that they might be able to help him next year. However, since it’s likely that the roof would be leaking badly by then and damaging the interior, he couldn’t wait to get the work done.
“Mould is dangerous stuff to live with,” Brydon said.
He said it would be great if he could get reimbursed for the work but he doesn’t believe this will happen now that it’s done and paid for. Brydon said he wanted to speak out about the situation because there are probably other seniors who aren’t getting satisfaction from the housing authority.
“I know the next time there is an election and they come around looking for a vote, they’re going to get an earful,” Brydon said.
CRITERIA MUST BE MET
Housing Nova Scotia caseworker Laura Anning did not handle Brydon’s application but was willing to offer some insight into possible reasons why an application would be denied.
She said they try not to deny people but there are policy guidelines they must follow. They are basically “a last resort” and you have to meet the minimum criteria. Sometimes seniors believe they should qualify on age alone but there simply isn’t enough money available for Housing Nova Scotia to take such an approach.
All Housing Nova Scotia grants are designed for low-income homeowners and you must have owned and occupied your home for at least a year. Property tax accounts must be in good standing.
There are household income limits and the number of occupied bedrooms in a home comes into play. For example, a couple living in a three-bedroom house would be assessed as having one occupied bedroom.
If an applicant is below the annual household income threshold but has investments that could be tapped into, for example, “they would be seen as having the funds to do the repairs themselves.”
Hypothetically speaking, if there was someone who qualified for a grant or loan but paid for the work up front, chances are that they would not be reimbursed. Anning said Housing Nova Scotia has to complete a qualification assessment first.
For example, if someone had a roof replaced because an insurance provider said it was necessary and then sent Housing Nova Scotia the bill, there would be no way for housing staff to determine if there really was a structural concern in the first place.
“We need to send our inspector out and make sure it meets our program criteria before we start reimbursing people for things,” Anning said.
GRANTS, FORGIVABLE LOANS
Housing Nova Scotia has a grant program that goes up to $6,500 for health and safety related repairs such as heating, roof work, electrical issues or structural hazards. There is also a forgivable loan program if more work is required, up to $18,000.
“The basic difference between those two is there is still no money out of the homeowner’s pocket. With the forgivable loan, they have to sign an agreement that they’ll stay in their home for up to five years to earn that forgiveness,” Anning said.
There is a similar forgivable loan program for disability-related modifications, such as the installation of ramps or accessible showers. Up to $16,000 can be accessed for these purposes.
For more information on Housing Nova Scotia and its available programs, visit https://housing.novascotia.ca.