Renovation grant income cut-off too low, says elderly Freetown couple

For the first time, the province of P.E.I. is awarding its government-assessed home renovation grants on household income and people like Jennie and Lloyd Farquharson of Freetown, whose home's foundation collapsed last spring, feel that shouldn't be the only criteria.

Jennie and Lloyd Farquharson turned down 2 times for P.E.I.'s low-income renovation program

Jennie and Lloyd Farquharson of Freetown can't afford to do major repairs on the foundation of their house and have been denied grant money from the province for renovations. 1:17

The province of P.E.I. is currently awarding $1.1 million in home renovation grants and for the first time the government-assessed applications are based on household income instead of on a first-come-first-served basis.

But some people, like Jennie and Lloyd Farquharson of Freetown feel income shouldn't be the only criteria.

The foundation of the couple's house collapsed last spring and insurance wouldn't cover the cost of repairs.

"We just got the one estimate and they told us it would be $10,000 plus tax, so then we didn't go any further with that, so we knew we couldn't, and insurance wasn't going to do it, so we knew we couldn't afford to do it," said Jennie Farquharson.

The Farquharsons have applied twice to P.E.I.'s home renovation grant program for low-income households, but were turned down both times.

The Farquharsons' foundation requires major work. (CBC)

Although any household earning $35,000 or less can qualify for the program, the province was only able to accommodate households earning less than $22,000 after the budget for this round of the program was used up.

Last year the Farquharsons' income was $42,000.

"By the time you pay medical and gas and insurance and car insurance and house insurance and oil and all your upkeep, your electricity and lights, it just doesn't go that far," said Jennie Farquharson.

"I mean, we never go out anywhere, we never go on trips, we never go to movies. We never spend our money on anything else but this house that we're living in and trying to keep it liveable."

'A lot of need out there'

Under a new assessment program introduced last fall, grants were only provided to households earning $22,000 or less.

"And that's why it's important that these programs exist," said Sonya Cobb, the director of housing at the Department of Family and Human Services.

"There is a lot of need out there, and government recognizes there is need out there and that we can always do more."

Jennie Farquharson is worried that she and her husband will have to leave their home. (CBC)

Government discontinued a funding program for emergency home repairs. But even under that program, the Farquharsons still wouldn't have qualified.

The couple said the cut-off level is too low and that government should consider partial grants for households above the income threshold.

Without financial assistance, they worry they'll lose their home.

"I don't know where to turn anymore to get help," said an emotional Jennie Farquharson. "So the only thing to do is we're going to have to walk away from a house and leave it, I guess."

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