As Housing Costs Increase, Some Relief is Available Though LEAP

~ By Eileen Doherty, MS ~

DENVER, CO  –  Housing costs in Colorado both for owners, as well as renters continue to soar.  Homeowners who may realize that downsizing may be important, the cost of a new, but smaller home may not be affordable.  Homes that are paid for or ones that have a low mortgage payment often cost less than a new mortgage or renting a smaller apartment or townhome.
 
Similarly the cost of renting an apartment has continued to skyrocket.  As more people move to Colorado, the costs of housing continue to increase.

 
There are several programs that are available to homeowners as well as renters.  Starting November 1, 2017 and going through April 30, 2018, both homeowners and renters whose monthly income is less than $1,658 per month for a single person ($2,233 for a couple) can qualify for assistance with utilities through the LEAP program.  There are no asset tests.
 
Individuals can apply for LEAP for help with utilities.  Applications are available through the county department of human services or by calling 303-333-3482.  The LEAP program is not designed to pay for all of the monthly utility costs, but it is intended to help during the winter months.  It should be noted that the Trump administration is looking to defund this program, although at the time of this writing, benefits will be available in the near future.
 
Homeowners and renters who live in a single family residence, a duplex or a fourplex can qualify for help through the Weatherization program if they qualify for LEAP.  The Weatherization program will help with the cost of new furnaces, refrigerators, windows, insulation and other home improvements to decrease the use of energy. Applications and information are available through Energy Outreach Colorado at303-825-8750.
 
Homeowners can qualify for the Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption Program.  This program is available to anyone, regardless of income and assets, who is age 65 or a disabled veteran who has lived in their own home for 10 years or more.  The program provides for a 50% reduction in the amount of property taxes due on the first $200,000 of value.  For many home owners, this reduces their property taxes by almost $1000 per year. 

Homeowners can apply through the County Assessor’s Office or by calling 303-333-3482 for an application for the Homestead Exemption.  Although the Homestead Exemption is written in the Colorado Constitution, the Legislature has the authority to change the funding annually for the program.  Some state policy makers want to eliminate or change the eligibility for this program and use the state funding for other programs. 
 
Homeowners or renters who are 65 and over or disabled can apply for assistance through the Property Tax/Rent/Heat Rebate program, sometimes called the PTC 104 program.  Individuals whose monthly income is less than $1,103 (or couples $1,486/month) are eligible to apply.  Individuals who have not applied for the 2015 rebate can apply until December 31, 2017 and those who have not applied for the 2016 rebate can apply until December 31, 2018.  This benefit is not available to seniors who live in non-profit senior housing units.
 
The PTC 104 form for the Rebate Program is available through the Colorado Department of Revenue or by calling 303-333-3482.  Individuals can now apply online at the Colorado Department of Revenue’s website.  Policy makers are looking at ways to expand the income and other eligibility requirements so a larger number of older adults and disabled individuals will be eligible to receive help.
 
For homeowners or renters of the City and County of Denver age 65 and over or disabled, there is additional assistance through the Payment to the Elderly Program.  Homeowners and renters whose monthly income is $1,325 or less ($1,925 for couples) are eligible for an additional rebate by contacting Denver Human Services at 720-944-3666 or calling 303-333-3482. To receive the 2016 rebate, applications must be submitted by December 31, 2017.
 
While housing costs continue to rise, taking advantage of as many of these programs as available can help Colorado seniors.  The assistance from these programs ranges for a few hundred dollars to almost a $1000 depending on the program.  Counselors are available to help with mailing applications or assist in filing forms.  Call 303-333-3482 for assistance.
 
Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty, MS is the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society.  Her areas of expertise include management and administration of nonprofit organizations, education and training on issues related to older adults, advocacy and policy development on senior issues, and clinical practice in working with seniors and families to manage their lives in the later years. She has been the Director of the Society since 1982.  She teaches Nonprofit Management for Fort Hays State University.