Educators, police officers and first responders all do invaluable work in protecting and enriching our communities. Many of us offer them our gratitude and respect for their selflessness, and we celebrate their contributions often as a way of saying thanks.

Unfortunately, while these individuals may be highly respected, many of them face challenges when trying to purchase homes of their own.

There may be hope on the horizon, however. Many in Congress are looking to the federal HELPER Act of 2021, as it shows promise as a way to assist these groups.

What is it?

The “Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator, and Responder Act of 2021” — or the HELPER Act of 2021aims to assist firefighters, law enforcement officers, elementary and secondary school teachers and other first responders by making housing more affordable for these groups.

The program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would allow for an affordable one-time mortgage offer for people in these occupations. The mortgage would include no down payment and no monthly mortgage insurance premium.

There are criteria in the bill to determine eligibility, including:

  • An adequate credit score.
  • At least four years of continuous employment.
  • Requires a 3.6% Mortgage Insurance Payment (MIP), which will vary depending on the size of the loan.

In addition, there is a five-year reauthorization plan, meaning the government has the power to revoke the Act after that period.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

What does it mean for first responders?

If passed, the HELPER Act would help affected people purchase homes, though especially first-time homeowners.

First responders and other included populations often face hurdles when trying to buy a home, especially for the first time. This leaves people in these occupations unnecessarily stressed out.

The unique challenges these individuals face when buying a home come in two particular varieties:

Challenges affording the down payment on a home.

Typically, this is 10-20% of the home’s value. But because these groups all too often face their own challenges when buying a home, they can’t make the down payment in addition to mortgage payments and other necessities. The HELPER Act removes this requirement, which would surely take down one of the major barriers first responders and educators have to purchase homes.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) requirements.

Usually, if you’re unable to deposit more than 20% of the home’s value upfront, you’re required to have PMI. The HELPER Act removes this requirement, which could potentially save people in these occupations several thousand dollars.

Will it pass?

Suppose the HELPER Act does pass, which looks promising, considering its near-universal support by both major political parties. Heroes such as first responders, educators and police officers will have a better chance of purchasing and owning their own homes without needing to worry about as many financial barriers. This could be game-changing for these occupations and could be a new way for Congress to show its appreciation for all the work they do, making our heroes feel more appreciated and secure by giving them a right to housing.