Gov. Ron DeSantis announces the details of the Hometown Heroes Housing Program at the Cape Coral Police Department on Monday. Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno and CCPD Chief Anthony Sizemore were among those in attendance as were two housing assistance program participants, Melba Lugo, a second grade teacher at Mid Cape Global Academy (behind Marceno), and CCPD Officer Ashton Wolfe, a veteran who came home to begin his career in law enforcement (behind and to the left of the governor.)

VALARIE HARRING

Workers in more than 50 professions deemed key to the state of Florida can now get help with the down payment for their first home under a program announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Hometown Heroes Housing Program launched June 1 and is available to various public safety, health and education professionals as well as military personnel and veterans.

In addition to this $100 million program, DeSantis also announced his support of the near $363 million appropriated by the State Legislature for affordable and workforce housing in the 2022-2023 budget, which officials said is the highest total in 15 years.

“In Florida, we value the contributions of our police, firefighters, teachers, and nurses,”  DeSantis said. “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.”

Qualifying professions include:

• Veterans, active-duty military and surviving spouses

• Teachers

• Sworn law enforcement officers

• Child care operators and daycare instructors

• Public safety personnel including paramedics, EMTs, 911 operators and firefighters

• Health care practitioners including RNs, LPNs, CNAs and home health aides

• Correctional officers, probation officers, juvenile detention officers and juvenile probation officers

Sworn law enforcement officers, veterans, active duty military and surviving spouses do not have to be first time home buyers to take part.

The program is administered by the Florida Housing and Finance Corporation and it offers “the highest and most inclusive eligibility of all Florida Housing down payment assistance programs,” DeSantis said, adding the program will expand on Florida’s existing housing programs to reach frontline workers and those who have served their country.

The programs will make a difference for many, the governor said.

“We’re going to continue to stand strong for those who support us,” DeSantis said.  “I’m really excited about this program. I think it’s going to make a difference for Sheriff (Carmine) Marceno’s deputies, for the police officers here in Cape Coral and all throughout the state of Florida so I’m going to thank the Legislature for stepping up for this and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Florida Housing received $100 million to establish and administer the program which will allow applicants to reserve funds beginning June 1, which was the start of National Homeownership Month. Funds will become available for distribution as of July 1, the start of Florida’s fiscal year.

To qualify for the program, homebuyers will need to go through a participating loan officer, have a minimum credit score of 640, provide certification for one of the eligible occupations, and meet the income threshold for their county.

Eligible borrowers will receive up to 5% of the first mortgage loan amount up to a maximum of $25,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a 0%, non-amortizing, 30-year deferred second mortgage.

A young veteran who returned home to Cape Coral to begin a career in law enforcement and teacher with more than 20 years of service each shared how important these types of programs are, especially in a housing market on the climb.

“Recently I started looking to buy a house. With the help of my Realtor and loan officer, there was so much that I didn’t know about and they were able to help me and guide me,” said Officer Ashton Wolfe of the Cape Coral Police Department. “I joined the military when I was 18. I was stationed in Washington, and when I left the military I came back to Cape Coral to serve my community as a police officer. The program Salute Our Soldiers, which is becoming the Hometown Heroes program, allowed me to buy a house at the age of 23 and I am the only 23-year-old I know that is buying a home, so it has done great things for me.”

Melba Lugo, a second grade teacher at Mid Cape Global Academy, said housing assistance, literally, made her dream come true.

“I have been a teacher for 25 years,” she said. “In one day, I changed cities, I changed jobs and I bought a house. Thank you for this program and I want to thank all of these people that have made this possible. Owning a house seemed like such a distant, far away dream. I am 63 and at this age you are supposed to be paying off your mortgage, but everything is good and beautiful when you walk in God’s time.”

Also among the speakers was Trey Price, executive director of Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

“Florida Housing is extremely grateful to those who have remained committed to serving their communities, especially during these challenging financial times,”  Price said. “Hometown Heroes will provide the financial assistance necessary to help these hardworking individuals finally achieve the American Dream of homeownership, and we look forward to the positive impacts this accomplishment will have on so many Florida families.”

For more information about the program visit https://www.floridahousing.org/programs/homebuyer-overview-page/hometown-heroes.


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