by Bethany Blankley
Eligible Floridians can now apply for mortgage and other assistance through the Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program in celebration of National Homeownership Month in June.
The program was created to make home ownership affordable for eligible frontline community workers including law enforcement officers, firefighters, educators, health-care professionals, childcare employees, and active military or veterans.
Taxpayers are footing the bill to the tune of $100 million.
The program provides down payment and closing cost assistance to first-time, income-qualified home buyers to help them purchase a primary residence depending on their type of employment. It also offers a loan program including a lower first mortgage rate and other benefits.
“In Florida, we value the contributions of our police, firefighters, teachers, and nurses,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said when making the announcement. “Our hometown heroes are the backbone of Florida communities and making sure that they can afford to be homeowners is a great way to give back to them and support the future of the American Dream.”
In addition to this program, the state legislature appropriated nearly $363 million to affordable housing in the 2022-2023 budget, the highest amount in 15 years.
The Florida Housing and Finance Corporation administers the programs, as well as a range of down payment assistance programs, including the “Salute our Soldiers Military Loan Program,” and SHIP-Homeownership and Rental programs. It provides an affordable housing locator by zip code, as well as information about special needs housing, disaster relief programs, a Homeowner Assistance Fund, and information about lenders, developers and property managers and owners.
Cape Coral Police Officer Ashton Wolfe said the Salute Our Soldiers program helped him purchase his first home. He said he joined the U.S. military when he was 18 and after he left, he came back to Cape Coral to serve as a police officer. “The Salute Our Soldiers, which is becoming the Hometown Heroes program, allowed me to buy a house at the age of 23 … so it has done great things for me.”
Melba Lugo, a Mid Cape Global Academy teacher, said when she moved and changed jobs she was able to buy a house because of the Hometown Heroes program.
“Owning a house seemed like such a distant, far away dream,” the 63-year-old teacher of 25 years said.
To qualify for the program, potential home buyers must connect with a participating loan officer, have a minimum credit score of 640, provide documentation that they work in an eligible profession, and meet the income threshold of their county. Those eligible may receive lower than market rates on an FHA, VA, RD, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac first mortgage, reduced upfront fees, no origination points or discount points and down payment and closing cost assistance.
Eligible borrowers 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. The Florida Hometown Heroes loan is not forgivable.
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Bethany Blankley is a contributor to The Center Square.