A Florida Realtors data analysis released Wed. promotes passage of a Hometown Hero Housing bill, showing the affordability challenges faced by Fla.’s front-line workers.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Many of Florida’s hometown heroes – first responders, law enforcement, educators and health care workers – cannot purchase a home in the communities where they work, according to a new data analysis by Florida Realtors®.
Sen. Ed Hooper (R-Clearwater), Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and other leaders joined Florida Realtors President Christina Pappas in Tallahassee to announce the study and advocate for aid to those “Hometown Heroes” through legislation to create a new housing program. The analysis shows the disparity between median home prices and the salaries earned by many of the pandemic’s hardest-working Floridians.
“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 Florida Realtors President Christina 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.”
According to the analysis, Florida median home prices increased 21% from 2020 to 2021, and by 58% since 2016. Hometown heroes’ wages have not increased a similar amount during that time period. Nurses, on average, 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 bill to create the Florida Hometown Hero Housing Program (SB 788). If passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, it would provide zero-interest loans to help these workers with down payment and closing cost assistance. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Hooper, has received unanimous approval in its two committee stops so far. It now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“These workers are incredibly courageous and, throughout the pandemic, they have kept us safe, cared for our families, and educated our children,” says 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.”
The legislation would create a program that reduces the initial cost of purchasing a home for eligible hometown heroes whose jobs put them on the front lines in Florida’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible individuals include those from a specified list of professions whose family incomes do not exceed 150% of the state or local median income.
“Today, I was excited to highlight the Hometown Hero Housing Program and I cannot think of a more deserving group to advocate for than our frontline and emergency workers and their families,” says Chief Financial Officer Patronis. “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. … Thank you to Senator Hooper and the Florida Realtors for working to make the dream of homeownership a reality for our first responders.”
The Hometown Hero Housing Program would complement, but not impact, existing local, state, and federal affordable housing programs. The program would mirror the existing Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program, which has successfully helped hundreds of veterans and active-duty military personnel buy a home.
Data compiled by Florida Realtors shows that in December 2021, the median sale price of a single-family home in Florida was $373,990, up 21% from one year earlier – and 58.2% more than just five years before. Yet data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the state’s median household income in 2019 was up less than 5% from the previous year, reaching $59,227. The challenge of affording a home is even greater for workers such as those in law enforcement, health care and education, whose salaries typically fall well below the amount needed to cover down payment and closing costs.
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.
Learn more about the program and its benefits at HousingForHeroesFL.com.
Support for the Hometown Hero Housing Program
- Florida Professional Firefighters President Wayne “Bernie” Bernoska: “Florida’s professional firefighters never stopped doing their job despite the added risk of the pandemic. Unfortunately, many firefighters struggle to afford a home. This program should help your local firefighters become homeowners in the communities that they serve.”
- Florida Sheriffs Association President and Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum: “Every day, law enforcement personnel across the state willingly put their lives on the line to protect the safety of the communities they serve. Yet despite their daily sacrifices, many of these brave heroes are simply unable to live in the communities they protect due to the rising cost of housing.”
- Florida Association of District School Superintendents CEO Sen. Bill Montford: “Teachers across Florida have done the near-impossible for the past two years, making sure children safely receive a quality education amid constantly changing protocols and policies. The pandemic reinforced the value of home, yet for too many educators, the ability to own a home is beyond their means. The Hometown Hero Housing Program would give them a realistic opportunity to afford the kind of home they need – which, after all their hard work, they certainly deserve.”
- Florida Health Care Association CEO Emmett Reed: “The Florida health care professionals who go to work every day in nursing homes, caring for our state’s most vulnerable elders – these are true heroes. They should be able to live within the communities they serve, but the skyrocketing costs of housing has priced many of them out of the market,” He says this program will make “a lifetime career in long-term care more realistic and rewarding. That’s increasingly important to ensure that we always have enough trained individuals to care for Florida’s growing aging population.”
- Florida Ambulance Association President Terence Ramotar: “Across the State of Florida, our EMT’s and Paramedics are relied upon to respond in our time of need. These are the everyday heroes in each of our communities. The Florida Ambulance Association thanks Sen. Hooper and all those supporters that will allow these heroes to be homeowners in the communities they serve. SB 788 will allow more of our heroes to make that first down payment through this assistance program, while honoring their bravery and commitment.”
- Florida National Emergency Number Association Immediate Past President Dan Koenig: “Most people have no idea of the incredible stresses COVID-19 has placed on 911 operators. At the end of a shift, all we want to do is head home to a place of our own – but for too many, this isn’t possible because housing is so expensive. By helping our 911 operators afford a home in the community they serve, this program would go a long way to keeping our operators happy and healthy, so they can continue serving the public in their time of need.”
© 2022 Florida Realtors®
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