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In Minneapolis visit, U.S. housing officials announce $15 million to help senior citizens stay in homes

The federal government will provide an additional $15 million to help senior citizens across the country upgrade their homes so they can continue to live in them safely, officials announced during a Monday visit to Minneapolis.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said the new funding represents a sliver of the roughly $100 billion needed to address housing problems across the nation. But, she said, “It’s an awful lot for the people who need it.”

Fudge announced the new funding at the Willard-Hay home of Bettie and John Smith, a couple who benefited from the roughly $30 million federal authorities had previously budgeted for the Older Adult Home Modification grant program. Families can use the money to cover a wide variety of expenses.

The Smiths got new smoke detectors. An electrician upgraded wiring so that the light in their dining room no longer flickers. New knobs make it easier to open drawers. A new refrigerator makes it easier for John Smith to reach food. A new grab bar makes it easier for Bettie Smith to enjoy her baths.

Bettie Smith, 73, said she and her husband now no longer worry that their 14-year-old grandson, who they are raising, will come home to find one of them has fallen.

“With all those modifications, I’m able to stay here,” said Bettie Smith, who has lived in the home with her husband for roughly 37 years. She added: “I feel safer now in my home.”

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, a DFL-member who joined Fudge for the announcement, said she hopes the funding will allow more families to stay in their homes and to use them for multiple generations.

“Of course, a house that works when you’re 30 doesn’t work the same way when you’re 70 or 80,” the senator said. She added: “What this does is it creates a way for us to fulfill the dream that everybody should have a safe and affordable and comfortable and nurturing place to live.”

Federal housing officials said they estimate the new funding will help cover upgrades to roughly 1,800 homes across the nation. To qualify, people need to be 62 years old or older and make 80% or less of the area median-income, a number that officials said translates to roughly $85,000 for a family of four.

The local program is being administered through Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. The organization has launched a website, agewellathome.org, for people who are interested in getting more information about the application process.

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