Throughout the trials and tribulations of the pandemic, Florida’s selfless frontline workers continued to serve their communities. Nurses, law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters and other hometown heroes did not have the option to work from home. Tens of thousands of these workers continued to show up every day, putting themselves at risk to keep Floridians healthy and safe. Unfortunately, for many of these hard-working Floridians, the reality of homeownership is just out of reach.
Consider that the median sale price of single-family homes in Florida hit $381,481 in February, an astonishing 22.4% higher than just one year earlier. That means that in today’s market, Floridians need to earn about $62,000 per year to afford the average home, but the average salary for many of our hometown heroes falls well short of that benchmark. For example, the median salary of elementary school teachers, EMTs and paramedics hovers around $33,660, while the average nurse makes $46,290 and the average firefighter makes $49,870.
That is a sizeable gap in home affordability for these essential workers, and it only seems to be getting wider as home prices continue to rise. If left unchecked, the bedrock of our communities will begin to deteriorate as these professionals look to other states in pursuit of the dream of homeownership. Thankfully, with a little help from Realtors® around the state, the Florida Legislature was paying attention and stepped up this year in several important ways.
First, lawmakers allocated $100 million to create the Florida Hometown Hero Housing Program, which was a legislative priority for Florida Realtors®. While the details of the program are still being worked out by the program’s administrator, the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, it is anticipated that it will be a revolving, zero-interest loan program that will help ease the burden of down payments and closing costs for eligible hometown heroes. Even better, the revolving nature of the program means that whenever one of these heroes sells, rents or refinances their home, they pay back the loan and that money becomes available for another person to use.
Second, lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment that will grant an additional $50,000 property tax exemption for many hometown hero professions if voters approve it this November. The passing of Amendment 3 would mean a modest tax break for hometown heroes who already own a home, giving them a little extra breathing room in their budgets each year.
Lastly, lawmakers allocated $262 million for Florida’s existing affordable housing programs – the largest allocation these programs have seen in quite some time. This money will be dedicated for programs that help eligible Floridians buy their first home, rehabilitate a home, conduct emergency repairs and build/repair low-income focused apartment housing, among other things.
The actions of the Florida Legislature this year will go a long way in helping to ease the state’s affordable housing crisis, but there is still significant progress that needs to be made.
Rest assured that Florida Realtors® will continue to be on the frontlines of this effort, advocating for new and innovative solutions to the state’s housing problems so that one day, all Floridians will be in a position to realize the dream of homeownership.
Christina Pappas is a third-generation Realtor®, vice president of the Keyes Family of Companies in Miami and the 2022 president of Florida Realtors®. Florida Realtors® serves as the voice for real estate in Florida. It provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 225,000 members in 51 boards/associations.