Skip to content
Fact Checked by Experts

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

As housing prices in Florida don't seem to be going down anytime soon, eligible full-time community workforce are among the residents affected by this crisis. Many campaigns have advocated for affordable housing policies across the sunshine state.

One of these campaigns gave birth to the Hometown Heroes Loan Program, which aims to offer housing relief to these workers.

FL Hometown Heroes offers down payment as well as closing assistance to qualifying workers. It seeks to enable these workers to live in the communities in which they are employed.

Hometown Heroes considers all eligible workers in Florida, Union County included. Here's how you can qualify for up to $35,000 as a grant from the program as a resident of Union County, FL:

The Florida Hometown Heroes Loan Program

Hometown Heroes was rolled out to make housing affordable for eligible full-time workforce, employed by a Florida-based employer. The occupational requirement will no longer apply.

As a qualified homebuyer, the program offers you a down payment and closing cost assistance in your home purchase. You also get to benefit from a lower-rate first mortgage.

The Florida Hometown Heroes Loan Program is part of the initiatives encompassed under The Bond Alternative (TBA) by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

TBA, to be precise, helps preserve and increase affordable housing opportunities for eligible community workforce.

Your first-time homebuyer status and gross income are the only things considered under the TBA program.

Provided you meet Hometown Heroes' eligibility requirements, you stand a chance to get a loan you can use to finance your first home in the area you work and serve.

You don't need to pay an upfront one percent origination fee, giving you a chance to save upfront closing costs.

FL Housing doesn't allow the participating mortgage lenders to charge you the standard one percent origination fee.

However, the participating lenders are permitted to charge reasonable origination fees. They earn 2.5 percent SRP (Service Release Premium) on all Hometown Heroes' first mortgage loans purchased by US Bank Home Mortgage.

Does FL Hometown Heroes Offer a Second Mortgage?

The Florida Hometown Heroes Loan Program offers a 5 percent second mortgage.

This means that 5 percent of your loan amount will be capped at $35,000 and cater for the down payment and closing cost assistance.

The loan will also come as a zero percent, non-amortizing repayable second home loan with a 30-year term.

Note that the mortgage lender will require you to pay any unpaid principal balance in full, if you refinance the loan, no longer occupy the home, transfer the deed or pay off your first mortgage.

About the Florida Housing Finance Corporation

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (commonly known as FL Housing) provides eligible first-time homebuyers with first mortgage products and second mortgage programs with down payment and closing cost assistance.

Loans are disbursed through a network of accredited participating mortgage lenders.

These lenders' roles include originating, underwriting, closing, funding, and delivering closed Hometown Heroes loans to the US Bank Home Mortgage for purchasing.

Since the Florida legislature established it over four decades ago, FL Housing has been offering residents a wide range of housing opportunities.

Its mission is to make Floridian communities sustainable to live, work and conduct business.

Program Requirements for FL Hometown Heroes

The Florida Hometown Heroes Loan Program requires you not to exceed the set maximum income limit requirements.

These income limits are adjusted explicitly for each household size in counties where you are purchasing a property.

Hometown Heroes also has various purchase price limits that you should consider.

You have to ensure that the property's contracted purchase price is within the purchase price limits in the county where the property is situated.

Your gross annual income should be $128,250 or below for Hometown Heroes to favor you.

Expect a loan limit of $472,030 when taking a Hometown Heroes mortgage under FH programs. The loan limit for the home loan under VA, HFA Advantage, and HFA Preferred programs is $726,200. USDA-RD does not have a Cap on Loan Limit.

First Mortgage Program Options

The three government-backed mortgage programs offered by Florida Housing include USDA-RD, VA, and FHA.

Consequently, the two conventional loan programs available to you in the Hometown Heroes Housing Program include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

FHA, VA, and USDA-RD loans are all rolled out as Florida First Heroes for TBA. They offer a fixed-rate mortgage with a 30-year repayment term if you qualify. They also automatically qualify you for down payment assistance.

The Fannie Mae offering comes as HFA Preferred Heroes for TBA under the Hometown Heroes Loan Program.

HFA Preferred Heroes for TBA qualifies you for down payment assistance as long as you are eligible. It offers a fixed-rate mortgage with a repayment term of 30 years.

It also boasts reduced mortgage insurance premiums (Private Mortgage Insurance) if your AMI is below 80 percent.

You may consider the Freddie Mac offering, rolled out as FL HFA Advantage Heroes for TBA under Hometown Heroes. You can enjoy a 30-year, fixed-rate home loan and down payment assistance if you are eligible.

However, you only get reduced-cost private mortgage insurance if your AMI is under 80 percent.

An MCC is a type of federal tax credit offered by the IRS if you are a low-income borrower looking to buy a home for the first time.

With this tax credit, you have the right to claim a maximum deduction of $2,000 on the loan interest paid on your property.

Though you can use a Hometown Heroes mortgage with MCC (Mortgage Credit Certificate), the Florida Housing Corporation doesn't offer any MCC program currently.

FL Housing advises against combining a Hometown Heroes mortgage with another down payment assistance program.

However, the only exception to this condition is if the agency (offering the subsidy) takes a third lien position in your loan.

Documentation Needed to Support Your Eligibility

You can only qualify for a Hometown Heroes mortgage if you are an eligible full-time worker, employed by a Florida-based employer. The program will also consider you if you are a veteran with an honorable discharge.

Documents needed to prove your eligibility include:

  • 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.

Loan Delivery Purchase Timeline

Hometown Heroes loans have a 60-day purchase timeline. This means that all conventional and government first and second mortgages must be delivered within sixty days.

Purchasing a loan after delivery will attract late purchase fees and repurchasing costs.

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 at Lake Butler in Windermere Florida

Cost of Living in Union County, Florida

The overall cost of living in Union County, FL, is low based on a score of 80.5, compared to the statewide score of 102.8 and the nationwide score of 100.

Groceries are way cheaper in the county (with an affordability score of 96.8), unlike most parts of Florida (102.8) and the country (100).

Expect to spend more on health since the affordability score (127.2) is more than the country's average (100) and state average (98).

Housing prices have an affordability score of 49.9, which is way lower than Florida's affordability score (102.6) and nationwide score (100).

Along these lines, the median home cost in Union County, FL, is $157,800 (versus the state average of $294,900 and the national average of $291,700).

The job market in this county grew by 0.4 percent in the past year, while it is projected to grow to 34.8 percent in the next ten years.

Sales tax rates are lower (7.0 percent) compared to the national average of 7.3 percent. The same applies to income tax rates (0.0 percent) when contrasted to the US average of 4.6 percent.

Residents in Union County earn an average annual income of $13,467, which is lower than the US annual average ($28,555). The median household income in the county is $41,476 (versus the national average of $53,482 a year).

Best Places to Purchase a Home in Union County, Florida

Located in the north-central part of the sunshine state, Union County ranks as the smallest county in the state. It has a population of 16,147 in the 2020 census and has Lake Butler as its county seat.

If you'd like to live in Union County, your options for the best places to buy a home include the following:

Lake Butler

As a town in Florida with a total population of 1,492, Lake Butler offers a suburban and rural feel. Most residents in this town rent their homes, while the public schools are above average.

Regarding real estate, the median home value in Lake Butler is $127,000, which is lower than the national average of $229,800.


Raiford is a town in Union County offering a mix of suburban and rural life. Its population stands at 222, mainly comprising conservative residents.

With a total of 3 prisons, the town is infamous for being home to the first Florida State Prison.

Expect a median home value of $106,300 when looking to buy a home in Raiford. This value is affordable compared to the national median home value ($229,800).

Worthington Springs

With a population of 301, Worthington Springs is a town in Union County, Florida, offering a suburban and rural feel.

The town comprises mostly conservative residents who rent their homes and above-average public schools.

Home prices in Worthington Springs have a median value of $165.400, making them more affordable than other parts of the county, whose median home value is $229,800.

Best Public and Private Schools in Union County, Florida

Union County has 8 public schools with a student enrollment of 2,303 as of 2020. These schools are ranked based on their combined proficiency test scores in math and reading.

The high-ranking public schools in this county include Union County High School, Lake Butler Middle School, and Lake Butler Elementary School.

Public schools in Union County, FL, have an average proficiency score of 73 percent (higher than the statewide average of 59 percent).

Their reading proficiency score stands at 62 percent, making it higher than the Florida public school average of 56 percent.

With an average ranking of 9/10, these schools rank in the top 20 percent of public schools in the sunshine state.

The minority enrollment of public schools in this county is 20 percent of the student body (primarily black students). It is less than the statewide average of 62 percent (primarily Hispanic).

The high-ranking public schools in Union County, FL (with their math and reading proficiency test scores) include:

  • Lake Butler Elementary School (Math: 82 percent and Reading: 74 percent)
  • Lake Butler Middle School (Math: 76 percent and Reading: 57 percent)
  • Union County High School (Math: 55 percent and Reading: 60 percent)
  • The Outpost (An Alternative School with a Reading score of less than 50 percent)
  • Union County Adult High School

Best Private Schools in Union County, FL

Two private schools in Union County, FL, serve 15,300 people per 244 square miles. This means that one private school serves 7,650 people per 121 square miles.

Union County ranks in the sixth position out of the 67 counties in Florida with the most counties per capita and 36th position for having the most private schools per square mile.

Private schools in this county offer education from Kindergarten through 12th grade and primarily rely on tuition and student fees. Some even receive little state funding or are supported by private contributions and grants.

The best private schools in Union County, FL, include:

  • Lake Butler Chrisitan Academy (Chrisitan)
  • Northside Christian Academy (Christian)
  • Starke Christan School (Christian)
  • Bradford Christian Academy (Christian)
  • Epiphany Catholic School (Catholic)

What Makes Union County, Florida Ideal for Families and Young Professionals?

Though it is the smallest county in Florida, Union County offers diverse activities and opportunities to families and young professionals.

You can enjoy a trip to the county's historic buildings, head out to a freshwater lake for fishing, take your adventurous side to the walking trails or soak in the laid-back atmosphere.

Lake Butler and Lakeside Park are the top natural attractions you may want to visit. You may want to visit Lake Butler if you are looking for a lovely park to relax by yourself, with friends, or with family.

On the other hand, Lakeside Park boasts a massive playground for kids, a splash pad, and a lakeside beach with a swimming area.

The affordable housing market makes this county among the best counties in the sunshine state to buy a home and live.

With an ever-growing job market, Union County's towns appeal to young professionals looking to grow their careers in communities with a suburban and rural feel.

These towns are also attractive if you are looking for chill neighborhoods to raise a family with good public and private schools and recreational facilities for families.

Cities/Towns in Union County, Florida that are Covered Under Hometown Heroes

As an eligible worker in Union County, you can apply for Hometown Heroes regardless of location. This is because the loan program caters to residents in all towns and cities across Union County, Florida.

These towns and cities include:

  • Lake Butler (city)
  • Worthington Springs (town)
  • Raiford (town)

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, the Florida Hometown Heroes Loan Program aims to make homeownership affordable for qualifying community workers. The program also considers active duty military personnel and veterans.

Provided you are a first-time, income-qualified homebuyer, you can apply for the loan and receive down payment and closing cost assistance when buying a home in the community you work and serve.

Hometown Heroes entitled you to lower rates on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, USDA-RD, VA, and FHA-backed first mortgages with discount points, zero origination points, and reduced upfront fees.

You can get 5 percent of the first loan amount (of up to $35,000) and a 30-year, non-amortizing zero-percent second mortgage.

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!