Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday announced his approval of the Hometown Heroes housing program, allowing individuals that serve as police officers, firefighters, military officers, and a plethora of other professions to secure buyer-friendly loans to buy property within the state.
The Florida Hometown Hero Program was proposed during the 2022 Legislative Session and would reduce the initial cost of getting into a home by providing zero-interest loans for those individuals that qualify through their profession. The loans would provide up to 5 percent of the purchase price and include Floridians that belong to the ‘Hometown Heroes’ series of occupations and has an income of no greater than 150 percent of the state or local median income.
To qualify for this program, homebuyers must connect with a participating loan officer, have a minimum credit score of 640, provide certification for one of the eligible occupations, and meet the income threshold for their county. Eligible borrowers will receive up to 5% of the first mortgage loan amount (up to a maximum of $25,000) in down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a 0%, non-amortizing, 30-year deferred second mortgage.
“If you want to recruit a police officer to work for say, Cape Coral Police Department, it really matters if they can afford to have a home and live in the community and shop in the same stores than if you have to commute from far away,” said DeSantis. “So we want to make sure that those front-line workers are able to afford things like buying their first homes.”
Housing prices are on a steady rise in Florida, with the median price increasing 73 percent in the last 30 years from $155,824 in 1990 to $269,400 in 2020. As the wages of the ‘Hometown Heroes’ line of professions have not increased at the same rate as housing costs, many are left unable to live in the communities they serve, leading to the beginnings of a housing crisis.
“I’m a big believer in homeownership. All we’re trying to do with this legislation is help facilitate the American dream, the Florida dream; Our Hometown Hero program is an amazing program where we’re going to do a revolving loan program,” said State CFO Jimmy Patronis during the program’s introductory press conference in February. “Every time there’s new homeownership in Florida, it’s a stabilizing force for good, but it also rings the state’s cash register for the state’s economy. This is going to be an amazing piece of legislation when it reaches Governor DeSantis’ desk.”
Florida Realtors’ research has found that to afford monthly mortgage payments on a median income, Floridians would need to earn about $62,000 per year. However, the average salaries of ‘Hometown Heroes’ fall below that mark. Paramedics, Pharmacy Technicians, Firefighters, and Vocational Nurses all earn less than $50,000 annually on average, placing them well below the minimum for homeownership. Sen. Hooper’s bill aims to make this more affordable and manageable for those that most directly impact our communities.
“Thee median home price in Florida is $347,000, a 21 percent increase over last year. Can any of you name an essential ‘Hometown Hero’ that received a pay increase of 21 percent last year? You cannot because there are none,” said Sen. Ed Hooper. “I think it’s important that if we show how much we appreciate them, let’s give them an opportunity to buy a home and be a part of that community where they have served every day. This will be the ultimate piece of legislation that I sponsor this year, to say to those folks ‘I appreciate you.’”