Data compiled by Florida Realtors found that in December 2021, the median sale price of a single-family home in Florida was $373,990, up 21 percent since the start of the pandemic — and up an additional 58.2 percent since 2016. Hometown heroes, which include firefighters, nurses, educators and EMTs, have not seen their wages increase a similar amount during that time period. According to the data, on average nurses would need to make $15,000 more a year, and EMTs and paramedics would need to earn $25,000 more a year, in order to afford homes in their own communities.
The data analysis comes as legislators discuss a proposal (SB 788), known as the Florida Hometown Hero Housing Program, that would provide zero-interest loans to help frontline workers with down payment and closing cost assistance. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Ed Hooper, has been reported favorably in its two committee stops, and now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Hooper, along with Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Florida Realtors President Christina Pappas and other leaders, highlighted the data, noted the disparity between median home prices and salaries earned by many of the pandemic’s hardest-working Floridians.
“These workers are incredibly courageous and, throughout the pandemic, they have kept us safe, cared for our families, and educated our children,” said Hooper. “We have to ensure we are also taking care of them. Median home prices are hitting over $400,000 in many Florida counties and we have to make sure we’re doing all we can to help these heroes.”
Notably, the bill would create the program to reduce the initial cost of purchasing a home for eligible homebuyers whose jobs have put them on the front lines of Florida’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible individuals include those from a specified list of professions and whose family incomes do not exceed 150 percent of the state or local median income.
“Today, I was excited to highlight the Hometown Heroes Housing Program and I cannot think of a more deserving group to advocate for than our frontline and emergency workers and their families. As your State Fire Marshal, I’ve seen first-hand the impacts these heroes have in our communities and the sacrifices they make day in and day out to keep us safe, especially during disasters. As your Chief Financial Officer, I tell people all the time that we don’t have a robust economy, great schools, great places to live, work, and build businesses without our first responders working in the background 24/7, 365 days a year,” added Patronis. “My wife Katie is a Realtor, and I’ve seen that when someone buys a home, they are more likely to excel in their career, invest in schools, and become stronger members of their community. Our first responders have our backs at a moment’s notice, and we must always have theirs. Thank you to Senator Hooper and the Florida Realtors for working to make the dream of homeownership a reality for our first responders.”
Realtors also noted that the Hometown Hero Housing Program would complement, but not impact, existing local, state, and federal affordable housing programs. The program would parallel the existing Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program, which has successfully helped hundreds of veterans and active-duty military personnel buy a home.
“Our state is facing an affordable housing crisis and we must do all we can to help the heroes who have done so much for us,” said Pappas. “Homeownership is regarded as the standard for achieving the American dream, but that’s getting harder and harder to attain. Florida Realtors has been a tireless advocate for affordable housing policies. The help provided by the Hometown Hero Housing Program will go a long way toward helping make this dream a reality for many workers.”
A number of other organizations and associations have lined up to support the Hometown Hero Housing Program, including the Florida Professional Firefighters, Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Association of District School Superintendents, Florida Health Care Association, Florida Nurses Association, Florida Ambulance Association, Florida National Emergency Number Association, and others.