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Barrier-free living

Stair lifts, environment controls or door widenings for independent living without barriers can be associated with high costs.

In most cases, the people concerned have to finance the new buildings or conversions from their own resources. In individual cases, however, different cost bearers can subsidise the construction measures. The state may grant favourable loans and help with tax relief.

The funding agencies pay loans or grants to support professional and social participation and independent living. The funding limits vary. In some cases, the income of the applicant has an influence on the amount.
It is important to note that the subsidy application must be submitted before construction and before a purchase contract has been signed and you have to wait for approval in writing!

People in need of care or people with disabilities who have care needs can receive grants which are not earnings-related for measures to improve their living environment from the care insurance fund. A subsidy of up to 4,000 euros per measure is possible. If several people in need of care live together, the subsidy increases to a maximum of 16,000 euros.

The subsidy is granted when home care enables or significantly improves or if an independent way of life is restored for the person in need of care (§ 40, paragraph 4 SGB XI).

However, a measure is only funded once, even if it benefits several people in need of care and the construction measures occur at different times. If the state of health deteriorates considerably or the level of care increases, a new measure can be applied for.

Individual aids such as folding support handles, bathtub lifts or toilet seat lifts may be covered by health insurance.

Employed people with disabilities are generally entitled to have their living space designed to meet the needs of the disabled if this is necessary for participation in working life. This is regulated in general in the SGB IX and is specified in the individual social security codes and in the severely disabled equalisation tax ordinance (§ 49 (8) No. 6, § 185 (3) No. 1 d in conjunction with § 22 SchwbAV).

Which service provider is eligible for support depends, among other things, on the cause of the disability, the degree of severity and the insurance periods:

  • Pension insurance: Anyone who has paid social insurance contributions for more than 15 years is supported by their pension insurance responsible.
  • Federal Employment Agency: If you have been paying contributions for less than 15 years - and also for trainees - the Federal Employment Agency is usually responsible.
  • Accident insurance: If a recognised occupational disease or an accident at work is the cause of a disability, the statutory accident insurance or the respective employers' liability insurance association or accident insurance fund pays (for specific information, see § 41 SGB VII in conjunction with the UV Housing Assistance Guidelines).
  • Integration Office (Inclusion Office): Freelancers, self-employed people and civil servants with severe disabilities or equal opportunities for whom no rehabilitation provider is responsible may under certain circumstances be supported by the Integration Office (§ 22 SchwbAV).

In connection with basic income support and integration assistance (benefits for housing), the institutions responsible for integration assistance and basic income support offices can also help to procure housing suitable for disabled persons or subsidise the conversion of an existing home.
However, these institutions only provide subordinate services if no other service provider is responsible. Their benefits are tied to income and asset limits and may only be granted as loans.

The federally owned KfW Banking Group (Kreditinstitut für Wiederaufbau) offers loans and subsidies for barrier-free conversion and construction of housing to private individuals.

Programme number 159 is a low-interest loan for the barrier-free conversion of housing. Financing of up to 100 percent of the eligible investment costs is possible, up to a maximum of EUR 50.000 per housing unit. Private individuals, housing companies and housing cooperatives as well as tenants can apply for the loan in consultation with the landlord. The respective house bank is responsible for processing and disbursement of the loan.

KfW also pays investment grants for barrier-free construction (number 455-B). The grant can be made directly to KfW.

However, the two promotional programmes Investment Grant 455 and Loan 159 cannot be combined.

In addition, there are other banks that grant promotional loans (e.g. NRW.Bank).

Many federal states, cities and municipalities have their own funding programmes for age-appropriate and barrier-free conversion and expansion, which are often limited in time and include different funding requirements. Information can be obtained from the local housing offices or the state and federal state banks.

A number of foundations promote barrier-free building or reconstruction, such as the Elsa-Krauschitz-Stiftung or the Stiftung Sächsische Behindertenselbsthilfe - Otto Perl.

Taxpayers can claim conversion costs as "extraordinary expenses" in their tax return. It is important to enquire at your own tax office before starting the conversion work about which documents (copies of invoices, disability certificates, attestations, etc.) must be kept available for this purpose.

Barrier-free building requires far-sighted planning and an exact estimation of the sometimes high costs.

Expert help is available, for example, from the following contact points:

Housing advice centres: In Germany, there is no one housing counselling service, but it is often integrated into other counselling services (e.g. care support points).

Experts: These are specially trained specialist planners and experts for barrier-free planning, construction and living. They also provide information:

  • the Federal Chamber of Architects (BAK)
  • the Federal Chamber of Engineers (BIngK)
  • the chambers of crafts (e.g. Zentralverband Sanitär Heizung Klima - ZVSHK)

Self-help clubs and associations: These institutions help with the formulation of applications or arrange competent help (e.g. Bundesverband Selbsthilfe Körperbehinderter BSK).