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Hometown Heroes Loan Program: Learn How to Get up to a $25,000 Grant in Gulf County, Florida

Buying a home is undoubtedly one of the most important investments you will ever make. However, if you’re a frontline worker in Florida, you probably know how difficult it can be to raise the upfront payments required for home purchases on a modest income.

Fortunately, with the introduction of the Hometown Heroes Loan Program, you now have the opportunity to benefit from zero-rated first loans and further home financing assistance through a grant of up to $25,000.

Through the Hometown Heroes Loan Program, income-eligible essential workers and first responders such as nurses, paramedics, classroom teachers, police officers, and firefighters can qualify for various government-backed and conventional loans to purchase homes anywhere in Florida. Applicants approved for these first loans also automatically qualify for a second mortgage to help with down payment and closing costs.

This groundbreaking initiative is open to critical workers serving more than 50 occupations across various departments but is projected to increase its reach in the coming years. If you are wondering how you can benefit from this program in Gulf County, you have come to the right place. In this post, you will learn everything you need about this program, including the qualification requirements, eligible occupations, and more. So, without much ado, let’s dive right in.


What Is The Hometown Heroes Loan Program?

The Hometown Heroes Loan Program is a newly rolled out initiative by Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FL Housing) that endeavors to make homeownership more affordable and accessible to frontline workers and first responders in all the counties in Florida. To achieve this, FL Housing has availed three government-backed and two conventional loans that income-qualified applicants can leverage to buy primary homes in their communities.

Here is an overview of the various first mortgage loans and second mortgage that you can qualify as a critical worker under this program:


Florida First Heroes Loan (FL First)

The FL First Program offers three government-backed fixed-rate loans (USDA-RD, VA, and FHA) with a 30-year term. If you qualify for this loan, you will be automatically considered for a second mortgage to help with the down payment and closing costs.


FL HFA Preferred Heroes (Fannie Mae)

Through this mortgage program, income-qualified critical workers can receive a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with reduced private mortgage insurance (PMI) for applicants whose incomes are less than or equal to their counties’ average median income (AMI). Furthermore, applicants approved for this first mortgage are eligible for further down payment and closing cost assistance through a second mortgage.


FL HFA Advantage Heroes (Freddie Mac)

Under this program, essential workers can obtain 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with reduced PMI for applicants with incomes less than or equal to their counties’ PMI. Like the aforementioned first mortgage loans, critical workers who qualify for this mortgage can enjoy additional down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a second mortgage.


FL Housing Second Mortgage Loan

As previously stated, qualifying for any of the Hometown Heroes First Mortgage loans automatically makes you eligible for a 0%, non-amortizing, 30-year, repayable second mortgage to help with closing costs and down payment. This second mortgage is capped at $25,000 and is equivalent to 5% of the original mortgage’s value.

It is worth noting that this second mortgage is not forgivable. Consequently, you’ll be required to repay it in full once you clear payment on the first mortgage, refinance the first mortgage, transfer the deed or stop living in the home as your primary residence.


Which Occupations Are Eligible For The Hometown Heroes Loan Program?

As previously stated, FL Housing’s Hometown Heroes Loan Program is intended to make homeownership accessible for critical community workers in all Florida counties by awarding up to $25,000. To benefit from the program, you must be presently working or provide documentation of having worked in one of the nearly 50 vital professions that have been approved for this initiative.

If you work in one of the following healthcare professions, you may be eligible for the award:

  • Certified Paramedic
  • Certified Emergency Medical Technician
  • Specialty Technologist
  • Certified General Radiographer
  • 911 Public Safety Communicator
  • Certified Radiology Assistant
  • Certified Basic X-Ray Machine Operator
  • Licensed Medical Physicist
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Certified Radiologic Technologist
  • Electrologist

You can also qualify for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program if you work in the Juvenile Justice and Corrections Department in any of the following positions:

  • Juvenile Detention Officer
  • Juvenile Probation Officer
  • Certified Correction Officer
  • Sworn Law Enforcement Officer
  • Correctional Probation Officer

If you work for the Department of Education, you may be eligible for the program if you are a:

  • Classroom Teacher
  • School Counselor
  • School Psychologist
  • Librarian
  • Social Worker
  • Career Specialist

Several medical and nursing positions are also eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program, including:

  • Registered Nurse
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Chiropractic Physician
  • Podiatric Physician
  • Osteopathic Physician
  • Acupuncturist
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Certified Medical Assistant

Other critical professionals who are targeted in the Hometown Heroes Loan Program are:

  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Dentists
  • Phlebotomists
  • Hearing Aid Specialists
  • Massage Therapists
  • Prosthetists
  • Orthotists
  • Licensed Dieticians
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Clinical Social Workers
  • Opticians
  • Athletic Trainers
  • Psychologists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Veterinarians

You are also invited to apply for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program if you have previously served in the military or are currently serving as an active military member. With that being said, you should remember that the qualification standards for veterans and serving military duty members differ slightly from those for other vocations.

If you are an active military member, you must present a copy of your military ID. However, in contrast to other professions, you won’t need to satisfy the first-time homebuyer criteria to be eligible.

You also won’t be required to fulfill the first-time homeowner criterion if you apply for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program as a veteran. However, you will be asked to provide a DD-214 form during the pre-qualification procedure to prove that you were dismissed honorably.

You are also encouraged to apply for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program if you are the surviving spouse of a veteran or military member. However, to be authorized for the loan, you must provide a certificate of eligibility (COE).


How To Qualify For FL Housing’s Hometown Heroes Loan Program

To qualify for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program, there are several requirements that you need to satisfy. These include:


First-Time Homebuyer Requirement

You must be a first-time home buyer to be eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program. This means you must not have indicated an interest in a primary residence during the three years before the execution of the mortgage loan. However, as highlighted before, veterans and active military personnel are exempted from this requirement and can qualify for the loan even if they are not first-time homebuyers.


Homebuyer Education Requirement

You must finish a pre-purchase homebuyer education course that complies with the National Industry Criteria for Homeownership Education and Counseling or the Housing and Urban Development Department’s (HUD) requirements to be approved for the Hometown Heroes Mortgage Program.

Participating lenders offer education to homebuyers independently or in conjunction with mortgage insurance firms. You will receive a certificate of completion once you have finished the homebuyer education course, which will be valid for up to two years. Additionally, you need to move in within 60 days of closing the mortgage.


Income Limit

To be approved for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program, your income must not exceed the income limit of your county as stipulated by FL Housing. This requirement ensures that only applicants who need home financing assistance benefit from the program. The current income limit for Gulf County, Florida, is $118,950.


Purchase Price Limit

According to FL Housing’s Purchase Price restriction, the Hometown Heroes Loan cannot be utilized to buy property for more than the maximum amount permitted in Florida. The maximum acceptable purchase price usually varies based on where you want to buy a house. The current purchase limit for Gulf County, Florida, is $647,200 for VA, HFA Advantage, and HFA Preferred loans, while the loan purchase price limit for FHA and USDA-RD loans is $420,680.


Credit Requirement

You need a minimum credit score of 640 if you’re buying a standard house and a minimum FICO score of 680 if you’re looking to buy a prefabricated house using the Hometown Heroes First Mortgage Loan (FHA, USDA-RD, and VA). Similarly, you must have a minimum FICO score of 640 or higher to be approved for an HFA Preferred or HFA Advantage if you’re buying a standard house and a minimum score of 680 if you’re buying a manufactured house.


DTI Requirement

If your credit score is between 640 and 679, you must have a maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 45 percent to be accepted for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program. However, if your credit score exceeds 680, you can be granted a loan with a maximum DTI of 50%.


Property Type Requirement

You can only use the Hometown Heroes Loan to purchase a primary residence. This means you can’t use the loan to refinance another mortgage or buy a home for non-residential purposes. Some of the properties that you can purchase using this loan include:

  • Condos
  • Townhouses
  • Attached or detached single-unit homes
  • 2 - 4 unit homes

How To Get The Hometown Heroes $25,000 Grant in Gulf County, Florida

You must first be approved for one of FL Housing’s conventional or government-backed first loans to qualify for the $25,000 Hometown Heroes award in Gulf County, Florida. After that, your lender will underwrite your loan within 45 days and print the necessary paperwork for closing. Once you obtain your first mortgage, your $25,000 reward will be reserved.


Port St Joe State Park in Florida


Cost Of Living In Gulf County, Florida

In the heart of the Panhandle of Florida, Gulf County is a picturesque county with an estimated population of 14,192. It is included in the Panama City, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area, and its county seat is Port St. Joe.

Gulf County is the only Panhandle county that enjoys a west-facing sunset. While it was initially famous for its bustling paper industry, the county’s sparkling white beaches have transformed its economy into a tourist-driven one, with many visitors coming to enjoy water sports including snorkeling, boating, kayaking, and year-round fishing. It offers a laid-back rural charm that many families, singles, and retirees find appealing.

In terms of its cost of living, Gulf County is significantly cheaper than other counties in Florida and the rest of the U.S. The median home price in the county is $234,100, which is 28.9% lower than the state average ($294,900) and 26.3% lower than the U.S average. The overall cost of living is 14% lower than the state average and 12% lower than the national average.

Groceries are cheap in Gulf County compared to other parts of Florida and the U.S. The average price of groceries is 5.3% lower than the state average and 2.5% lower than the national average. You can also expect to spend less on healthcare than you would in other parts of the state and the nation, as healthcare costs are 6.5% lower than the Florida average and 8.5% lower than the U.S average.

The average cost of transportation is also considerably lower compared to the state and national average by 19.4% and 6.8%, respectively. Even so, the cost of utilities can be pretty high because the county experiences hot sunny weather throughout the year.

The median household income in Gulf County is $50,640, much lower than the national median.


Best Places To Buy A Home In Gulf County, Florida

As previously highlighted, the real estate market in Gulf County, Florida, is among the most affordable in the Sunshine State. If you’re thinking about buying a home in this county, here are some of the best places you might want to consider:


Port St. Joe

The picturesque town of Port St. Joe is strategically located on the Gulf coast and enjoys a booming economy courtesy of the many tourists who visit each year. It has a population of 3,502, with 72% of its residents owning their homes and 28% renting.

The community of Port St. Joe is united by its love for football, and competitions are held regularly. The town also offers plenty of dining options, with numerous cafes and restaurants. Properties are reasonably affordable, with homes costing an average of $280,200. The median household income is $60,682.


Wewahitchka

Wewahitchka is a quaint neighborhood in Gulf County, Florida, with a population of 1,762. It offers a suburban-rural lifestyle with a neighborly feel. About 72% of the residents own their own homes, while 28% rent.

The median value of a home in Wewahitchka is 237,400, while the average cost of rent is $775. Households in this neighborhood rake in an annual income of about $53,863.


Best Public and Private Schools in Gulf County, Florida

Gulf County Schools, headquartered in Port St. Joe, is an above-average school district serving all the neighborhoods of Gulf County and the city of Mexico Beach in Bay County. It has a total of 1,890 students with a student-teacher ratio of 17:1.

Approximately 52% of the students in Gulf County’s public schools are good at maths, while 50% are proficient at reading. The average graduation rate in this county is 82%.

Some of the best public schools in Gulf County include:

  • Port St. Joe Elementary School
  • Wewahitchka Elementary School
  • Port St. Joe High School
  • Wewahitchka High School

Gulf County is also home to a single private school, Growing Minds Center, which offers special education.


Benefits Of Living In Gulf County, Florida For Families and Young Professionals

Gulf County is one of the best places to live in Florida for families. Its neighborhoods are well-groomed, sparsely populated, and highly affordable, with many homes priced much lower than in other parts of Florida.

Like other parts of Florida, Gulf County enjoys warm, sunny weather throughout the year, making it ideal for families looking to escape the cold weather in the northern parts of the country. A good district also serves the county with several high-performing schools that offer excellent teaching to students at all levels.

Likewise, if you’re a young working professional looking for a laid-back lifestyle in Florida, Gulf City might be proper for you. While it has a rural feel, it offers an exciting outdoor experience courtesy of the numerous parks and beaches. Some famous attractions in Gulf County include Cape San Blas Lighthouse, Constitutional Convention Museum State Park, St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve, and Scallop Cove.


Eligible Cities and Towns in Gulf County, Florida

The Hometown Heroes Loan Program is open to all the cities and towns in Gulf County, Florida, including:

  • Port St. Joe
  • Wewahitchka

Wrapping Up

While buying a home in Florida can be incredibly daunting if you are a critical worker earning a modest salary, you can now take advantage of FL Housing’s Hometown Heroes to enjoy home financing aid. Apply for the program today to kickstart your journey of homeownership.

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