Skip to content
Fact Checked by Experts

Hometown Heroes Loan Program - Learn How to Get up to a $35,000 Grant in Baker County, Florida

Home prices in Florida are fast rising, as are borrowing rates, due to increased demand. Many Floridians, particularly those who work in sectors that directly benefit our state's inhabitants, have difficulty saving for closing costs and down payments to buy their first homes.

Florida Housing has introduced the Hometown Heroes program throughout the state, including Baker County. Eligible Floridians can now seek cheaper mortgages and other support through this initiative.

What is the Florida Hometown Heroes loan program all about?

The Florida Hometown Heroes Scheme intends to make homeownership more accessible to those who work a minimum of 35 hours a week or more for an employer that is a FL based company.

The program is open to all eligible community workers looking for assistance buying their first homes.

Eligible full-time workforce who qualify for one of the following FL Housing first mortgage alternatives are eligible for closing expenses and down payment assistance under the program:

  • The Florida First for TBA government - All government-sponsored mortgage programs, such as the VA, FHA, and USDA-RD, fall under this category. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is available to eligible applicants.

  • The HFA Preferred Heroes for TBA - This is a standard Fannie Mae Offering mortgage program that offers qualified applicants a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. This mortgage scheme also offers cheaper Private Mortgage Insurance costs for borrowers with less than 80% AMI. On the other hand, borrowers with AMI greater than 80% are subject to standard PMI.

  • The HFA Advantage Heroes for TBA - This loan option is from Freddie Mac and is a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with cheaper private mortgage insurance for AMI below 80%.

Eligible loan applicants receive a zero-interest, non-amortizing, 30-year deferred second mortgage worth up to 5 percent of the first mortgage (maximum $35,000) towards the down payment and closing costs.

Who is the Hometown Heroes mortgage program for?

The Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Program provides down payment and closing cost assistance to first-time, income-qualified home buyers so they can purchase a primary residence in the community in which they work and serve.

There will no longer be an occupational requirement.

Who is in charge of the program in Baker County, Florida?

The program is overseen by the Florida Housing and Finance Corporation, sometimes known as Florida Housing. This agency was founded by the legislature 40 years ago.

It is the housing finance agency of the local government, and it oversees federal and state resources to help Floridians achieve budget-friendly rental housing and personal homes.

This program will provide cheaper first mortgage options and closing costs, and downpayment assistance to eligible community workers allowing them to acquire a primary residence in the cities they serve.

What are the qualification criteria for the hometown heroes loan program?

Potential first-time homebuyers must meet some requirements and connect with participating loan officers. These requirements include:

Employment Status

Borrower(s) must be employed full-time by a Florida-based employer and work 35 or more hours per week. Except for military veterans, all applicants must currently work 35 hours or more a week to qualify.

Meet the county's income threshold

This home financing program includes income caps. Only applicants with salaries below 150% of the county's median income are considered. For Baker County, Florida, this number is $129,000.

Only 1003 or credit-qualifying income is considered in this mortgage program.

At least 640 FICO score

A FICO rating of at least 640 is required for all applicants. DU blended FICOs are not permitted. MH and manual underwrites require a minimum 660.

People may qualify with DTI of up to 50 percent but maximum DTI with manufactured housing is 45% and maximum 43% with manual underwrites.

Provide Supporting Documentation

Additionally, the following documentation will be required from applicants:

  • COPY of signed, FINAL 1003.
  • COPY of VOE confirming employment of 35 hours a week or more with a Florida based employer.
  • COPY of DD214, if applicable (for Veterans).
  • COPY of LES or SCRA (for active-duty military personnel).
  • COPY of fully executed FL Hometown Heroes Certification Form.

Attend Homebuyer Education (HBE)

Before purchasing their home, those who qualify must take a homebuyer education course recognized by the program, either in person or online.

The course must satisfy the National Industry or Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards for homeowner education and counseling. Education after the closing is entirely unacceptable.

Education provided by a mortgage insurance company is acceptable if it meets National Industry or Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards for homeowner education and counseling.

Certificates of completion remain valid up to two years following the issued date.

Veterans and Active Duty Personnel are exempt from attending homebuyer education unless participating in the HFA Preferred or HFA Advantage.

What assistance is provided if you qualify?

The hometown heroes initiative was established to assist eligible community workers in obtaining housing in the communities in which they work.

Those who qualify may obtain lower-than-market interest rates on their first mortgage from the FHA, VA, USDA-RD, Freddie Mac, or Fannie Mae.

Eligible loan applicants will also receive a zero-interest, non-amortizing, 30-year deferred second mortgage worth up to 5 % of the first mortgage (maximum $35,000) towards the down payment and closing costs.

This second mortgage becomes entirely due if one refinances the first mortgage, rents out or even sells the home, and transfers the deed.

Additional benefits include lower upfront expenses, no origination points, or discount points.

Florida Tax Exemption Benefits

One of the top benefits of using the Hometown Heroes Program is tax exemption, saving you thousands of dollars.

Under Section 420.513(1) of the Florida Statutes, this program provides an exemption from documentary stamp tax and intangible tax for first and second mortgages and notes used to secure loans for housing financed through Florida Housing's Homebuyer Programs.

This means that when you purchase a home through these programs, you won't have to pay the documentary stamp tax and intangible tax on your mortgage, saving you a substantial amount of money.

The Florida documentary stamp tax is a real estate transfer tax levied at a rate of $0.70 per $100 paid for the property in most counties, except Miami Dade, where it is $0.60 per $100.

With the Hometown Heroes Program, you can exclude this tax when you meet the program's criteria. Additionally, the Florida intangible tax, which is calculated at 2 mills per dollar of the note's just value secured by the mortgage, is also exempted.

For each $100,000 of your home purchase price, this exemption can potentially save you approximately $2,000 in documentary stamp tax and intangible tax.

Sunset with trees in Florida

What types of residences can you buy with this program?

You can acquire new or refurbished homes, single or multi-family homes, subsidized condos, townhouses, and manufactured homes with the help of the hometown heroes program.

Baker County is made up of three cities and several unincorporated areas. The loan program is offered in all Baker County municipalities, allowing residents to purchase a home in the community they serve.

The typical listing property price in the county as of April 2022 was $306K, up 17.5 percent from the previous year. The median selling price was $293.5K.

The most affordable city in the county is Sanderson, with a median listing price of $160K. It's characterized by a low crime rate, and excellent elementary schools, including:

  • Westside Elementary School (Grade 1-3)
  • J Franklyn Keller Intermediate School (Grade 4-5)
  • Richardson Middle School (Grade 6)
  • Baker County Middle School (Grade 5-8)

Glenn St. Mary is the second most affordable city, with a median listing price of $237.5K. It's the best city if you are looking for new homes. The best neighborhoods here include:

  • Middleburg - the median listing price is $375K
  • Oakleaf Plantation - the median listing price is $388.5K
  • Chimney Lakes - the median listing price is $345.K
  • 32221 - the median listing price is $309.9K

Homes in MacClenny city have the highest median listing price at $299K. This city hosts 13 public and 2 private schools rated good and higher by GreatSchools.

These include Macclenny Elementary School, Baker County Middle School, and Baker Virtual Instruction Program.

The best neighborhoods in the city include:

  • Jacksonville (median listing price $299.9K) - affordable townhomes, condos, and apartments
  • Callahan (median listing price $334K) - affordable homes, above-average elementary schools
  • 32068 (median listing price $370K) - low crime rates
  • Middleburg (median listing price $375K) - above-average elementary schools

Baker residents believe the southwest section of the county to be the safest, while the odds of falling victim to a crime in the northeast areas are as high as 1 in 36.

Are there any limits with this loan program?

Here's the summary of the loan and income limits for the hometown heroes loan program in Baker County, Florida:

  • Hometown Heroes Income Limits - $129,000
  • Hometown Heroes Loan Limits (FHA) - $526,700
  • Hometown Heroes Loan Limits (HFA Preferred, HFA Advantage and VA) - $726,200

USDA-RD does not have a Cap on Loan Limit.

Cash Back to Borrowers

No cash refunds will be offered at closing with this loan program; instead, any remaining funds will be used to pay down the first mortgage unless they are from gift funds.

Gift funds may be utilized for a down payment, closing fees, debt repayment, reserve building, or other agency-approved purposes. Because these funds are not from the borrower, any excess gift money can be refunded without designated "cash back."

When applying for gift card refunds, one must fill out a specified form and adhere to the Florida Housing agency guidelines.

Is the second mortgage program for hometown heroes forgivable?

The second mortgage loan isn't forgivable and must be repaid in full when one refinances or pays off the first mortgage, rents out the property, sells it, or even transfers the deed.

Is it possible to have a co-signer?

Only the Fannie Mae and FHA first mortgage options will accept co-signer. But they won't be listed on the deed. Also, homebuyer education is not required for the co-signers.

Because these two programs include credit income for loan qualification, a co-signer's income will be included in the loan calculations.

However, the Co-Signer's income may eliminate a borrower from the low-cost mortgage insurance available to Fannie Mae borrowers with AMI below 80 %. Fannie Mae incorporates every income earned by co-signers into the AMI calculation.

What is the loan delivery timeline?

A 60-day loan delivery deadline applies to all hometown heroes' first and second mortgage loans. Any loans purchased beyond this deadline will be subject to repricing costs and late purchase penalties.

These fees will be deducted from the lender's SRP at the purchase price. Loans that will not have been delivered or acquired by the full delivery date may be canceled.

  • Underwriter Certification period - 20 days
  • Loan delivery timeframe - 60 days

The program's timeframe is decided by the time the loan is booked in the eHousing eHPortal system, not by the day the loan is confirmed in the origination system of the lender.

What if you're not a first-time buyer?

Suppose you are not purchasing your first home but are purchasing one in a federally designated location or are a qualified veteran.

In that case, you may still be eligible for this type of loan.

Please remember that the Florida Hometown Heroes closing cost and down payment assistance program cannot be coupled with another FL Housing deposit aid program.

However, it can be paired with down payment assistance from other institutions if they take a third lien position.

How do you apply for the program in Baker County?

If you are a community worker who qualifies for any FL Housing first mortgage options and meets the above income limits, connect with a loan specialist and start the application process for the hometown heroes mortgage down payment & closing cost assistance.

Is the program available across all communities in Baker County, Florida?

Yes, the Florida hometown heroes loan program is available across all communities in Baker County, Florida. These include:


  • MacClenny
  • Glen St. Mary
  • Sanderson

Unincorporated communities

  • Baxter
  • Bessent
  • Claudes MH Park
  • Davis Park MH Park
  • Eddy
  • Kenny
  • LaBuena
  • Lee and Baker MH Park 2
  • Manning
  • Manns Spur
  • Margaretta
  • McPherson
  • Olustee
  • Pine Top
  • Sapp
  • Sargent
  • Steckert
  • Taylor


Community workers in Baker County, Florida, have been experiencing continuous housing market and rent price challenges.

The new Hometown Heroes program will help these individuals purchase homes in the areas they serve. The program is for first-time homebuyers who meet specific income requirements.

It seeks to offer fixed-rate mortgages with historically low-interest rates and up to $35K in down payment assistance.

The programs and a variety of down payment support programs are administered by the Florida Housing and Finance Corporation and financed by the taxpayer as well.

You must deal with an approved loan officer, have at least a 640 FICO score, and satisfy the income level for the county to be eligible for the program.

With over 50 years of mortgage industry experience, we are here to help you achieve the American dream of owning a home. We strive to provide the best education before, during, and after you buy a home. Our advice is based on experience with Phil Ganz and Team closing over One billion dollars and helping countless families.

Find The Right Mortgage

For more than 20 years, Phil have been helping customers achieve their home purchase and refinance goals by providing them with invaluable resources and support.

Schedule a FREE Consultation
Phil Ganz

Subscribe to Get Your First Time Homebuyer Checklist

Sign up for the weekly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest real estate market trends, loan news, and so much more!