First responders and educators devote their lives to the safety and well-being of our communities. Unfortunately, local governments across the county are struggling to recruit and retain qualified and racially diverse public safety employees and educators. It is crucial for local leaders to find ways to support them. Recognizing the challenges first responders and educators face in achieving homeownership, federal lawmakers have introduced the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator and Responder (HELPER) Act of 2023, which aims to revolutionize the homeownership opportunities for our first responders and teachers.
The HELPER Act (S. 1514 / H.R. 3170) seeks to amend the National Housing Act to create a tailored mortgage insurance program for first responders and teachers. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the bipartisan bill in the Senate, and it is co-sponsored by Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Raphael G. Warnock (D-GA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Rick Scott (R-FL]), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA). In the House of Representatives, the bill was introduced by Representatives John Rutherford (FL-04), Al Lawson (FL-05), John Katko (NY-24) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and it enjoys support from 68 bipartisan co-sponsors.
The HELPER Act aims to provide favorable mortgage terms and conditions for eligible first responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and teachers. By establishing a dedicated mortgage insurance program, the bill eliminates the traditional mortgage down payment requirement and monthly mortgage insurance premiums, which can be substantial barriers to homeownership.
Breaking Down the Key Provisions in the HELPER Act
- Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for the program, eligible individuals must have served as first responder for four years or be employed as a full-time teacher by a State-accredited public school or private school, complete housing counseling, be first-time homebuyers and commit to continuing as a first responder for a minimum of one year.
- Financial Benefits: The HELPER Act eliminates the need for a down payment and removes the burden of monthly mortgage insurance premiums, making homeownership considerably more affordable for qualified individuals. The legislation also increases the seller assist to six percent and expands the benefits to a wider range of communities by eliminating the Federal Housing Administration’s geographic restrictions.
- Financial Support: The legislation authorizes $660 million in appropriations for the program in 2024, with an additional $160 million allocated for each subsequent year for the next five years. This financial support will help ensure the program’s viability and success.
According to the bill sponsors, the HELPER Act could benefit an estimated 4.2 million K-12 teachers and educators, 333 thousand firefighters and EMTs and 812 thousand police and law enforcement officers through its mortgage assistance program.
The National League of Cities (NLC) supports the HELPER Act and actively urges Congress to pass this legislation. The legislation has received endorsements from 59 municipal governments.
Enacting this bill would result in a program that assists our community heroes in affording to live in the areas where they provide their essential services. Join us today and show your support for this bill!