Harsh housing market even worse for buyers with disabilities
SALT LAKE CITY – As our series “Priced Out” points out, buying a new home is getting more difficult for everyone but some realtors say the harsh housing market is especially problematic for people with disabilities, who end up spending thousands more in upgrades to their new home.
Realtors say it takes more than just ramps to make a house wheelchair accessible. For instance, Chelsea Woodruff with Equity Real Estate says bathrooms have to be equipped with doors that swing inside and out, floor plans need to provide more open space and hallways have to offer enough room for people to move through.
“You have to have room for a 360-degree turn in a wheelchair at the end of any hallway,” according to Woodruff.
These are not easy upgrades to make, and if buyers don’t qualify for assistance to make these renovations, they will have to pay for them with their own money. Woodruff says these upgrades could cost between $50 thousand and $100 thousand.
“What we’re talking about gutting the house, basically, down to the studs and removing the studs,” Woodruff says. “You have to have a 42-inch hallway and the average hallway width is less than 36 inches.”
There are grants that can help people with disabilities make changes to their housing, however, Woodruff says many customers don’t qualify to get them since they make slightly too much money.
Woodruff says, “Not only do they have to have a disability, but they also have to be ‘low income.’”
She’s calling on builders to make changes to their developments, providing at least one floor-plan model that has wider spaces to accommodate wheelchairs. That way, upgrades won’t be nearly as expensive as they are now. Plus, she’s calling on cities and lenders to loosen their restrictions on renovation grants.
“If a person has a verifiable disability, maybe raise the financial limit,” says Woodruff.
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