Washington, D.C. -- With more and more Americans priced out of the real estate market, Congress is considering a proposal to help first responders and teachers buy homes.

What You Need To Know

  • The Helper Act could help teachers and first responders buy homes

  • The program would eliminate down payments and insurance premiums

  • The bill is designed to help ensure that people serving in a community are able to live there

St. Johns County Deputy Sheriff Zachary Quintieri says Florida is an especially competitive market. "The biggest challenge has been competing with people who are moving down here to finish out their lives, not starting. It was kind of devastating to see the place I grew up in an not being able to live in it or even, I mean, you can't even rent here. I mean, rent's outrageous," he concluded. 

Quintieri is looking to purchase his first home in St. Johns County. He says legislation in Congress would benefit him and others. 

The bill known as the HELPER Act would eliminate down payment requirements and costly mortgage insurance premiums. Applicants would need to have at least four years of service in their jobs, and could only use the program once. 

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is a sponsor of the bill. He says it would make homeownership more affordable to those with some of the most critical roles in communities. "Oftentimes these men and women can't afford to live in the communities that they serve. And one of the reasons why is housing costs. So there's a lot of reasons why housing costs are high and unaffordable, and we're trying to address one of them," Rubio said. 

Nearly eighty members of the House and Senate from both parties have signed on as co-sponsors. But, it has not yet reached the floor of either chamber. Congresswoman Maxine Waters who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, and Senator Sherrod Brown, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee have not yet said if they support it. 

Florida Democrat Al Lawson, one of the co-sponsors in the House, calls it "the best legislation that [he's] seen in [his] six years in Congress." "An American Dream is homeownership and this is very important because just a few years ago I was struggling, wondering whether I could ever get a house, but it's even more difficult now," Lawson said. 

If enacted, the program would need to be re-authorized after five years.