Speaking at the entrance of the Florida Senate on Wednesday morning, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, joined by program sponsor Senator Ed Hooper and Florida Realtors President Christina Pappas touted the Florida Hometown Hero Housing Program that would provide ‘Hometown Heroes’ — law enforcement officers, firefighters, educators, and health workers — with home loan assistance.
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.
“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 Patronis. “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.”
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 has not increased at the same rate as housing costs, many are left unable to live in the communities they serve in, leading to the beginnings of a housing crisis.
“It’s the red-hot real estate market that has started to price our hard-working Floridians, our heroes, out of the communities in which they work. The legislation proposed by Senator Hooper today is a tangible way to help our ‘Hometown Heroes’ get the boost they need, the hand they need so that they can own a home in the face of daunting numbers,” said Pappas. “Prices have increased 21 percent over the last year. Since 2016, a 58 percent increase. It’s no wonder that working Floridians are now finding themselves unable to afford a home.”
Florida Realtors research has found that to afford monthly mortgage payments on a median proceed him, 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. 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.'”
The bill favorably passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development as well as the Community Affairs Committee, both unanimously, and now awaits a full vote before being signed into law by Governor DeSantis.