A new state housing program was hailed as a way to address the affordable housing crisis but after six weeks the program is already out of cash.
The Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program was initially intended for front line workers but was expanded to all state residents this past July.
FHHHP’s purpose was to make homeownership more easily attainable for professions like law enforcement officers, firefighters, educators, healthcare professionals, childcare employees, and active military or veterans by providing down payments and closing cost assistance to first-time, income qualified homebuyers in these occupations to assist in purchasing a primary residence. In 2022, this program was only an item in the state budget.
Due to its significant popularity, the legislature was prompted to enshrine the program into state law and expand its reach [Fla. Stat. §420.5096]. Tallahassee invested an additional $100 million into the program while simultaneously broadening the eligibility requirements.
For example, a “first-time home buyer” is defined as someone who hasn’t owned property within the last three years.
Meanwhile, eligibility is no longer restricted to “front line” workers; one must be a full-time Florida-based employee (in any occupation) making at or below 150% of the area median income. The maximum loan amount went from $25K to $35K, but it remains capped at 5% of the loan amount.
Sondra Dane, senior loan officer with Supreme Lending in Fort Lauderdale, was in the middle of helping a Flight Attendant who is applying for financing to purchase in Manor Grove when OutSFL reached her for comment.
“Something that I love about the program is that the rate is set below market – and it’s fixed. The buyer doesn’t pay points, origination fees, or intangible taxes. It’s a great tool for the right buyers.”
She also expressed hope that Tallahassee continues funding the program for the future. “We’ll have to wait and see. For the past couple years, it’s been great.”
There are other down payment assistance programs available with different eligibility requirements and fees.
One related matter the revamped FHHHP seeks to address is the lack of affordable housing in areas that drive local economies. Critics expressed frustration prior to the program’s expansion that it doesn’t do enough to address the immediate needs of workforce housing.
For instance – the bars and restaurants that give rise to the gay meccas of Wilton Manors and South Beach employ many people who can’t afford to live in these neighborhoods.
In theory, the new law addresses this via tax credits and exemptions for private developers if they build more affordable rental housing instead of the glut of “luxury rentals” that typical workforce employees can’t afford. The program will invest $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to build new affordable housing units as the law eases local restrictions on where affordable housing can be built.
Aaron Kinchen is a licensed realtor in Fort Lauderdale with Better Homes and Gardens. Got a real estate question? Email