From armed battles on the other side of the globe to terrorist attacks on our own soil, America is no stranger to turbulent times. For more than two centuries, we have relied on brave Americans who rise to the challenge of protecting our country and our communities, whether abroad or at home.
This time the enemy is a virus. Over the past 18 months, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and teachers have put their health and the health of their loved ones on the line so they can serve their communities during one of the greatest pandemics in history.
Though they continue to show up for others every day, these frontline heroes are being crushed by soaring house prices, depriving them of affordable housing options. America’s best are drowning, and we can’t leave them behind.
U.S. Representatives Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos Gimenez understand the limitless value first responders and teachers bring to South Florida and appreciate the sacrifices they make, especially in the face of COVID-19. That’s why the two co-sponsor the Homes Act for Every Local Protector, Educator, and Responder (HELPER). This common-sense legislation is backed by more than three dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers from across the country, including six Florida House members. This bill is desperately needed.
According to the latest Case-Shiller index, year-over-year home prices recently jumped nearly 20%, with the median price hitting an all-time high. However, Florida police, firefighters, paramedics and teachers have seen average annual salary growth of only 2-3%, leaving this largely forgotten class of first-time buyers shut out of the housing market. It’s time for those who have continued to serve during the pandemic to have access to the American Dream of affordable homeownership. The HELPER Act would help make that idea a reality, creating a viable path for frontline workers to create wealth for themselves and a better future for their families.
Florida supporters include Republican Representative John Rutherford, Democratic Representative Al Lawson, in addition to Republican Senator Marco Rubio. This groundbreaking bipartisan legislation would eliminate down payment requirements and provide 100% financing for single home purchases for buyers who fall into one of the frontline hero categories: police and correctional officers, firefighters, paramedics and paramedics and K-12 teachers. .
The move would mean that if a young firefighter or college teacher wanted to buy a moderately priced home, they would receive a loan to fund the entire purchase price.
Another key measure of the HELPER Act is the elimination of monthly mortgage insurance premium requirements. Under the normal FHA system, most homebuyers who cannot afford a 20% down payment must pay a monthly insurance premium and upfront cost. A $200,000 home, for example, would normally require a monthly premium of $140. Under the HELPER law, this additional monthly cost is waived.
Not only does this legislation save homebuyers significant amounts of money, but it would be low risk for the federal government; and the loss only occurs if the buyer defaults in foreclosure. Since first responders and teachers are dedicated public servants with stable, often long-lasting jobs, the chances of this happening are slim.
Gimenez and Salazar understand the importance of this moment, and I commend them for their support in turning this common sense idea into legislative reality. As the National Director of Heroes First Home Loans and a Marine Corps veteran, I know that our first responders and teachers deserve the same access to affordable housing as our veterans. These brave first responders and educators deserve to live in the same communities in which they serve without the excessive financial burdens imposed by soaring housing costs.
These home front heroes have already sacrificed so much and they have earned their share of the American Dream. Let’s make sure they get it.
Samuel P. Royer is the National Director of Heroes First Home Loans.