BATH, Maine — A new grant is helping the City of Bath achieve a goal it has been striving toward for nearly a decade: helping more aging Mainers to stay in their own homes for longer periods of time.
Bath Housing created the "Comfortably Home" program in 2015, leading the way statewide for similar initiatives. "Comfortably Home" helps older homeowners and people with disabilities thrive in their own houses by making improvements to the building, like installing handrails and shower seats, repairing stairs and windows, weatherizing, and improving lighting.
"Maine has an aging population, and most aging adults want to stay in their home," Emily Ruger, the director of economic and community development for the City of Bath, said. "Bath also has an older housing stock. We have one of the oldest housing stocks in Maine, and Maine has one of the oldest housing stocks in the country."
The Maine State Housing Authority recently awarded Bath Housing a $150,000 grant to bolster the "Comfortably Home" program by expanding the qualifying income range and offering a slightly higher budget per household helped.
For example, 80 percent of the area median income was typically the maximum income for eligibility for "Comfortably Home". That has since shifted to 100 percent of the AMI.
In Sagadahoc County, that means a single-person household is now eligible with an annual income of up to $61,180. For a two-person household, that number has shifted to $69,920.
Ruger said this additional help is beneficial to both the older Mainers the program is serving and the community in general.
"Modifications to a home is cheaper than other options—say, like building other senior housing specifically," Ruger said. "There's actually a return on both ends. For older folks who want to stay in their homes, they have an opportunity, and cost-wise, it makes sense."
Ruger said this initiative points to a greater issue in Maine: the need for additional housing that matches the needs of people in the community. She said "Comfortably Home" provides an important sense of independence to aging Mainers who often want just that.
"Independence is huge. You wouldn’t think that some of the smaller modifications make a big impact, but they really do make it so older folks can stay in their homes and not go to a senior center or have to move to a different apartment or a smaller home," Ruger said. "They make it so they can comfortably live in the home that they’ve potentially been in for decades."
"Comfortably Home" services extend to a 15-mile radius around Bath, including places like Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Brunswick, Freeport, Georgetown, Litchfield, Phippsburg, Richmond, Sebasco, Topsham, and Woolwich.
To find out if you're eligible, you can call 207-295-3317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.