PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program which will provide approximately $100 million to help front-line workers buy their first home, starting on June 1.
With more than 1,000 lenders participating, the state initiative will assist “vital” workers in 50 professions with down payments and closing costs.
“We have worked harder than anybody to support the people in our communities that support us … that means the people that wear the uniform,” DeSantis said at a press conference on May 23 in Cape Coral. “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.”
“The program is administered by the Housing and Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) and has the highest and most inclusive eligibility of all Florida Housing down payment assistance programs,” Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said at the press conference. “The program is geared to expanding on Florida’s existing housing programs to reach critical workers and those who have served our country.”
Qualifying professions include law enforcement officers, correctional officers, probation officers, 911 operators, and juvenile detention officers. Also, firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians. Other workers considered essential are teachers, daycare instructors, nurses, home health aides, and other healthcare practitioners.
In a booming real estate market, it is hard for people to buy a home with the influx of people that are entering the state of Florida, the governor explained. And, essential workers sometimes cannot afford to live in the same community that they serve and must commute from far away, where homes are more affordable.
“So we want to make sure these frontline workers—people we consider to be Hometown Heroes—are able to not only work and serve the community but do so where they’re able to afford things like buying their first home,” DeSantis said.
Ashton Wolfe, 23, recently purchased his first home by taking advantage of a program called Salute Our Soldiers, which is going to be a part of the Hometown Heroes program.
“I came back to Cape Coral to serve my community as a police officer,” he said at the Cape Coral press conference. “This program allowed me to buy a house at the age of 23, so it has done great things for me.”
Wolfe said he began looking to purchase a home at the “worst time,” but with the help of a good realtor, he was able to make homeownership a reality after returning in 2019 from active duty in the military.
“There were nerves from that,” he said. But he managed “with the help of my realtor and loan officer. There was a whole plethora of knowledge that I didn’t even know about or was aware of that they were able to help me with.”
Wolfe was able to qualify for the Salute Our Soldiers Program, which is available for military veterans and active-duty personnel moving to Florida, as well as surviving spouses of deceased veterans. It offers home-buying assistance regardless of their status of being a first-time home-buyer or not, DeSantis said.
In addition to the $100 million for Hometown Heroes Housing Program, the governor announced that he intended to support a $363 million budget appropriation for affordable and workforce housing in the 2022-2023 budget.
According to The Florida Realtor’s website, homebuyers must find a participating loan officer, have a minimum credit score of 640, provide certification for one of the eligible occupations, and meet the income requirement for their county. Buyers who are eligible will receive up to 5 percent of the first mortgage loan amount or a maximum of $25,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a zero-interest 30-year loan that would be repaid in full if the buyer sells, refinances or rents out the home.