(The Center Square) -- U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, says proposed federal legislation will make it easier for first responders and teachers to buy houses in the communities where they work.
Ossoff is co-sponsoring the "Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator, and Responder (HELPER) Act of 2023" with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.
It would establish a new Federal Housing Administration home loan program for first responders and teachers who are first-time homebuyers to secure a down payment-free mortgage. Ossoff said mortgage underwriters would still conduct due diligence and a risk assessment to ensure the loan is sound.
"This is all about ensuring that those public servants -- teachers, first responders, law enforcement -- can live in the communities they serve," Ossoff said during a press conference at Roswell's Fire Station 24.
"The challenge of home affordability makes it difficult for public servants to afford homes in the communities where they work," Ossoff added. "And it can make it difficult for the chiefs here and the mayor to recruit and retain the talented personnel that we want in our fire departments, in our police departments, in our sheriff's offices, in our schools."
The legislation is modeled after a similar program for veterans.
During the Monday press conference, Ossoff could not specifically say how much the program might cost taxpayers and said his staff would follow up with a detailed fiscal analysis. An Ossoff spokeswoman could not say when the information might be available.
However, the legislation authorizes $660,000 for fiscal 2024 and $160,000 for each fiscal year from 2025 through 2030. The program would have to be reauthorized after five years.
"In this country, the number one challenge facing police departments is the hiring, retention and recruitment of high-quality police officers," Roswell Chief of Police James Conroy said. "This bipartisan legislation is going to go a long way into investing into those future police officers so they can live in or around the communities that they serve and protect."
"It's important that we be a part of our communities," Conroy added. "And it's important that they have affordable housing, and they're able to live close to or within the communities that they work."
According to Ossoff's office, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, Georgia has roughly 21,000 police officers, 11,000 teachers, 11,000 firefighters and 5,600 EMS/EMTs and paramedics.