House bill would allow teachers, first responders access to no down payment mortgage

Legislators are eyeing a no down payment mortgage option for educators and first responders who are struggling to buy a home in today's competitive housing market. (iStock)

Members of the House of Representatives recently introduced bipartisan legislation that would give teachers and first responders – including law enforcement officers, firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and paramedics – access to a mortgage without having to make a down payment.

The Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator, and Responder (HELPER) Act seeks to aid those individuals in purchasing a home in the current competitive housing market. The bill was referred to the House Financial Services Committee, which has yet hold a markup on it. 

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"The ongoing pandemic has put a long overdue spotlight on some of America’s most important unsung heroes," says Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) "From teachers, to police officers, to paramedics, EMTs and firefighters, we saw these professionals faithfully support our nation during the pandemic, and at times put their own lives at risk to uphold their duties.

"Unfortunately, these heroes, who make great sacrifices for our communities, often are unable to find affordable housing in the communities they serve," he said. "That’s why I’m proud to work with Republicans and Democrats to introduce the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator, and Responder (HELPER) Act."

The legislation would: 

  • Create a one-time-use home loan program under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • Eliminate a down payment requirement
  • Eliminate a monthly mortgage insurance premium (MIP) requirement

The legislation is modeled after the VA Home Loan Program, which offers benefits to United States military veterans. It's expected to save qualified individuals about $90 a month on their monthly payment, in addition to reducing the upfront costs of buying a home. 

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In addition to Katko, the HELPER Act was introduced by Reps. Al Lawson (D-Fla.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.). It began as the initiative of Samuel Royer, the national director of Heroes First Home Loans, who says that the bill is very likely to pass in Congress with its bipartisan support and positivity of its goals.

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The Association of American Educators (AAE), a national non-union, professional association, is calling on Congress to support the HELPER Act. 

"Educators have always given more than is expected of them, often working long hours and spending hundreds of dollars annually to ensure their students receive a quality education," AAE Executive Director Colin Sharkey said. "Despite their commitment to their communities, too many of our nation’s educators find it difficult to afford their first home.

"Our educators have continued to step up to the challenge of providing a quality education for their students, despite numerous challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic," Sharkey said. "They deserve our support, and enabling them to access affordable housing is one way to ensure we honor them for their commitment to our students and our communities."

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