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

Navigating Florida's highly-priced housing market can be a bit challenging for frontline workers, first responders, active military members, and veterans, especially when their income is below the median household income.

In the past few years, legislators in the Sunshine State have been trying to set up initiatives to address this problem with little success. But this didn't stop them from approving programs such as the Hometown Heroes program, which Florida Housing rolls out through its participating lenders.

The Hometown Heroes housing program took effect on June 1 after Governor DeSantis announced the state government's willingness to pump close to $100 million into it. All critical workers from Floridian counties, such as Santa Rosa County, can enroll in this house financing program. In this guide, you'll discover what it takes to get the $25,000 grant when living in Santa Rosa County as a critical worker:


About the Hometown Heroes Housing Program

Hometown Heroes is a program that makes homeownership affordable for critical community workers. It targets explicitly active military members, veterans, childcare employees, healthcare professionals, educators, firefighters, and law enforcement officers.

Eligible critical workers enjoy lower rates on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, RD, VA, or FHA first mortgages. You also benefit from reduced upfront fees, down payment and closing cost assistance, discount points, and no origination points. One thing to note is that, unlike traditional home loans, a Florida Hometown Heroes loan is not forgivable.

Hometown Heroes offers up to 5 percent of the loan amount (a total of $25,000) in down payment for the first mortgage. It also offers a zero percent non-amortizing down payment and closing assistance on a 30-year deferred second mortgage. However, you have to pay the second home loan in full when you sell the property, refinance the first mortgage, transfer the deed or no longer occupy the property as your primary residence.


Income Limits for Santa Rosa County and Eligible Occupations

The 2022 Hometown Heroes income limit for Santa Rosa County is currently at $118,950, while the Hometown Heroes loan limit for FHA and USDA-RD stands at $420,680. VA, HFA Advantage, and HFA Preferred have a 2022 Hometown Heroes loan limit of $647,200.

If you're taking the Hometown Heroes loan as a first mortgage, it will be subjected to a 30-year fixed-rate time. Under this loan program, your first mortgage options will include HFA Preferred for TBA by Fannie Mae and HFA Advantage for TBA by Freddie Mac.

The Fannie Mae option offers a policy of reduced-cost and charter-level mortgage insurance (MI). However, your Area Median Income needs to be below 80 percent to be eligible.

If you consider the Freddie Mac option, it will entitle you to reduced-cost, charter-level mortgage insurance. As a side note, you'll need an AMI of less than 80 percent to qualify for this mortgage.


How to Get the $25,000 Grant in Santa Rosa County, FL

Hometown Heroes has flexible and less strict requirements for eligible frontline community workers across all counties in Florida, including Santa Rosa county. Once you meet the occupational requirements, the participating lender will require the following documents from you:

  • Copy of Florida State certification or license
  • Fully completed Hometown Heroes Program Attestation
  • Copy of VOE (verification of employment)

You only get to take a second mortgage under Hometown Heroes under various conditions. The first condition is that you shouldn't have any pending down payment assistance loan on your side when trying to apply for the second mortgage. Second, an agency must have taken over the pending down payment assistance loan, assuming a third lien position.

Time is of the essence if you consider taking the first mortgage under the Hometown Heroes loan program. You, therefore, need to lock in a mortgage rate with a participating lender 45 days before the home purchase. Once the 60-day deadline passes, taking a loan will attract extension, repricing, and cancellation fees.


Eligible Occupations

If you are an eligible critical worker, the Hometown Heroes loan program can be a convenient down payment and closing cost assistance option. You need to be working or have been working on a full-time basis in a position mentioned on your occupational license.

You stand a chance at the $25,000 grant if you work in the corrections and juvenile justice departments. However, you have to prove that you are a juvenile detention officer, probation officer, sworn law enforcement officer, certified corrections officer, and correctional probation officer.

If your job requires immediate accident or emergency response, the loan program can favor you. Occupations such as firefighter, 911 public safety communicator, emergency medical technician, and paramedic are eligible. You can also apply for home financing when working as a school psychologist, social worker, school counselor, media specialist, librarian, career specialist, or classroom teacher. The same applies to childcare operators, childcare instructors, nursing assistants, practical nurses, and registered nurses.

Health care practitioners across fields such as dentistry, midwifery, acupuncture, chiropractor, osteopathy, podiatry, pharmacy, general medicine, and anaesthesiology stand a chance to qualify for the mortgage. Occupations in nutrition, athletic training, nursing home administration, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and massage therapy are also eligible. The same applies to professions in veterinary, psychology, radiology, orthotics, and prosthetics.


Do Active Military Personnel and Veterans Qualify?

The eligibility requirements for active military members and veterans for the Hometown Heroes loan program are slightly different from the requirements of other occupations. If you are military personnel, you have to submit a valid copy of your military ID and won't have to meet the first-time homebuyer requirement.

Veterans are also exempted from the first-time homebuyer rule when seeking a mortgage under the program. However, a DD-214 form reflecting the discharge status as honorable (rather than dishonorable) will be needed in the pre-qualification process. If you are a surviving spouse to a veteran or military personnel on active duty, you'll need to submit a Certificate of Eligibility before getting the loan.


Cost of Living in Santa Rosa County, FL

South Rosa Country is a county in Florida with cities and towns that offers the best fine dining experiences, property, and sports. The county has a total population of 189,139, a median age of 39.5, a comfort index (climate) of 3.4/7.9, and an unemployment rate of 4 percent as of 2020. The median income in this region currently stands at $58,199, while the median home price is $280,800.

The county's overall cost of living score of 98.3 is lower than the state average of 102.8 and the national average of 100. Grocery costs have an affordability score of 99.7 in Santa Rosa County, while the statewide and nationwide averages are 102.8 and 100. With an affordability score of 99.4, healthcare costs are pretty high compared to the statewide average of 98 and slightly lower than the nationwide average of 100.

Housing units are more affordable in the county, with an affordability score of 91.3 compared to 102.6 for the state of Florida and 100 for the entire country. In Santa Rosa, FL, median home costs are lower since they average $280,800, unlike the statewide and nationwide averages of $294,900 and $291,700.

With an affordability score of 108, utilities cost more in the county than in the entire state (101.3) and country (100). Transportation costs are way less (101.9) than the statewide average of 112.6 but slightly higher than the nationwide average of 100. Miscellaneous expenses have an affordability score of 100.1 compared to 96.9 in Sunshine State and 100 in the entire country.


Pathway and sea oats on beach at Santa Rosa Island in Florida


Best Places to Buy a Home in Santa Rosa County

Located on Pensacola Bay along the Gulf Coast, Santa Rosa County is filled with neighborhoods that you'd want to live in. The area boasts coastal weather conditions all year round, historical sights and locations, quality schools, and lots of recreational opportunities. Without further adieu, discussed below are five of the best places you may want to buy a home in Santa Rosa County:


Tiger Point

With a combination of a country and historical feel, Tiger Point stands out from other towns and cities in Santa Rosa County, FL. It offers a rural setting if you are looking for a more tranquil place to buy a home and live. The town is also accessible to several beaches, making it a perfect living and getaway spot.

Tiger Point's population currently stands at 2,779, which is ideal if you're looking for a slightly sparsely populated area to live. The median income for households in Tiger Point is $80,680, while the median home price is $287,400.


Gulf Breeze

Gulf Beach is a town in Santa Rosa, FL, with a spectacular beach setting that you may consider living in. Since it is home to the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the area has a strong military grounding. It also hosts the University of West Florida, making it ideal for young adults looking for educational opportunities.

Gulf Breeze has a total population of 6,251 and a median household income of $85,529. Residential units in this town have a median price of $304,800.


Navarre

If you are looking to buy a home in a Santa Rosa town that balances city and country life, consider Navarre. The town offers a wide range of opportunities, from top-notch dine-in choices to exquisite beaches. It also provides residents with an excellent quality of life regardless of their income level.

Navarre's population currently stands at 34,085, while the median household income is $66,906. Home prices in the town have a median value of $258,500.


Midway

Midway is a charming city offering a quiet lifestyle and a peaceful experience. The city is infamous for its hospitable residents who are kind to outsiders and newcomers.

Midway city has a total population of 18,070 and a median household income of $65,929. Residential properties in this city have a median price of $238,500.


Pace

If you are looking for a city with an elevated sense of community, you may want to consider Pace. Santa Rosa city offers many outdoor experience options, including open-space naturalistic views and parks for families and young adults. There's also excellent access to the white sandy beaches in this coastal area.

Pace's current population is 22,232, making it more populous than other cities discussed in this guide. The median household income stands at $62,298, while home prices in the area have a median value of $189,500.


Best Public and Private Schools in Santa Rosa County

For the 2022 school year, Santa Rosa County, FL, had 40 public schools with a student enrollment of 27,995 students. The county boasts the highest concentration of high-ranking public schools in the sunshine state. Highly ranked public schools in the county include Oriole Beach Elementary School, Gulf Breeze Middle School, and Gulf Breeze Elementary School. These schools were ranked based on their combined reading and math proficiency scores.

Public schools in Santa Rosa County, FL, have an average score of 69 percent in math proficiency which is higher than the public school average of 59 percent in Florida. The reading proficiency score in the county stands at 66 percent compared to the statewide average of 56 percent. Minority enrollment in public schools in this country is 22 percent compared to a statewide average of 62 percent (primarily Hispanic). The top five public schools in Santa Rosa County, FL, include:

  • Gulf Breeze Elementary School (with an 83 percent math proficiency score and 81 percent reading proficiency score)

  • Gulf Breeze Middle School (with an 84 percent math proficiency score and 78 percent reading proficiency score)

  • Oriole Beach Elementary School (with an 81 percent math proficiency score and 79 percent reading proficiency score)

  • Santa Rosa Virtual Franchise (with a math proficiency score ranging from 70 to 79 percent and a reading proficiency score ranging from 80 to 89 percent)

  • Thomas L Sims Middle School (with an 82 percent math proficiency score and 71 percent reading proficiency score)

Best Private Schools in Santa Rosa County

Santa Rosa County, FL, has 4 private schools with a student enrollment of 199 in the 2022 school year. Twenty-five percent of these private schools have affiliations with religious institutions. The top four private schools in Santa Rosa County, FL, include:

  • 30a Learning Academy (that admits grades 1 to 5 students)
  • Compass Rose Academy Inc (that admits PK to grade 6 students)
  • South Walton Montessori Academy (admiring PK to grade 8 students)
  • The Tree House (that admits PK to grade 1)

Is Santa Rosa County Suitable for Young Professionals or Families?

The Santa Rosa Beach area is an excellent kid-friendly destination, thanks to its laid-back and secluded feel. Both families and young professionals can enjoy the scenic, untapped beauty and great outdoor activities that cities and towns in this county offers.

Whether you have a family or a young professional, you'll be drawn to the low crime levels, good schools, and college-educated residents that the entire South Rosa County offers. You may also be drawn to the high homeownership rate of single-family properties and a perfect environment for raising kids.

The coastal area is a hub for live music performances, world-class cuisine, excellent internet connection speeds, and vast employment opportunities. It also boasts an 86.41 percent white-collar employment rate, above the national average. The top job sectors in Santa Rosa County include administrative and office support, sales jobs, and management occupations.


Cities/Towns in Santa Rosa County that are Eligible for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program

All cities and towns of Santa Rosa County, FL, are covered by the Hometown Heroes loan program. The cities include Gulf Breeze and Milton, while the town includes Jay.

The census-designated places in Santa Rosa County, FL, that are also part of the loan program include:

  • Allentown
  • Avalon
  • Baghdad
  • Berrydale
  • Browndale
  • Chumuckla
  • Cobbtown
  • Dickerson City
  • Dixonville
  • East Milton
  • Fidelis
  • Florida town
  • Garcon Point
  • Harold
  • Holley
  • Midway
  • Mount Carmel
  • Mulat

Others include Munson, Navarre, Navarre Beach, Oriole Beach, New York, Pace, Pea Ridge, Pine Level, Springhill, Tiger Point, Wallace, Whitfield, and Woodlawn Beach.


Final Thoughts

Thanks to the Hometown Heroes Housing Assistance program, eligible critical workers now stand a chance at homeownership. The program seeks to take the burden off down payment and closing costs to help these workers secure suitable financing that they can use to buy homes. It's exciting what the future holds for the beneficiaries of this program.

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