Opinion: Bipartisan effort to help heroes buy homes deserves support

Credit: Bita Honarvar

Credit: Bita Honarvar

America is no stranger to turbulent times. For over two centuries, we have counted on those brave individuals who rise to the occasion to protect our country and our communities. As a U.S. Marines veteran, I often think of my predecessors, the World War II veterans who earned their title as the Greatest Generation through their many sacrifices. Although we no longer find ourselves embroiled in such a massive, armed conflict, their selfless spirit endures in a new generation of heroes as they face down a different kind of enemy.

This time, the enemy is not a nation, but a virus. Those on the front lines are not soldiers, but police officers, firefighters, paramedics and teachers battling to serve their communities amidst one of the largest pandemics in history.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., understands the immeasurable value that first responders and teachers provide to Georgia’s communities. He appreciates the sacrifices they make every day, especially in the face of COVID-19. That’s why he has chosen to lead as a cosponsor of the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator, and Responder (HELPER) Act.

After the Greatest Generation came home, Congress realized that they had to be honored for their sacrifices. In 1944, Congress passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly known as the G.I. Bill, to help veterans and their families purchase homes in their communities. The spirit of the G.I. Bill lives on today. It has helped me and millions of other veterans afford a place to call home.

I believe it’s time for our homefront heroes, the brave first responders and teachers who have continued to serve during the pandemic, to enjoy the same access to affordable homeownership as our veterans. The HELPER Act would make that idea a reality.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in conjunction with Sen. Ossoff, introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate in October. The bill’s companion in the U.S. House, sponsored by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., was introduced in May. It enjoys broad, bipartisan support.

This game-changing legislation would eliminate downpayment requirements and offer 100% financing for one-time home purchases for buyers who fall within one of the front-line hero categories: police and corrections officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, and PreK-12 teachers.

Passage would mean that if a police officer or a third-grade teacher wants to purchase a $200,000 home, they would receive a loan to finance 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 an upfront cost. A $200,000 home, for example, would normally require a monthly premium of $140. Under the HELPER Act, this additional monthly cost is eliminated.

Not only does this legislation save homebuyers significant amounts of money, but it would be low risk for the federal government; loss only occurs if the homebuyer defaults into foreclosure. Because first responders and teachers are dedicated public servants employed in stable, often career-lasting jobs, the odds of this happening are minimal.

As the national director for Heroes First Home Loans and a Marine Corps veteran, I know that our first responders and teachers deserve the same access to affordable housing that our veterans do. These brave first responders and educators deserve to live in the same communities in which they serve without the excessive financial burdens imposed by ballooning housing costs.

These homefront heroes have already sacrificed so much, and they have earned their slice of the American Dream. Let’s ensure they receive it.

Samuel P. Royer is the national director for Heroes First Home Loans.