New home loan program for first responders in SF

July 30, 2013 5:41:43 PM PDT
San Francisco launched a new home loan program Tuesday not based on income, but on vocation. The subsidy is designed to help first responders buy homes in the city.

Nearly two-thirds of San Francisco's firefighters and more than half of the police force live outside the city. If catastrophe hits, like the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, police officers like Gordon Shyy will be crucial, but he commutes 60 miles from the South Bay.

"It would take even longer, if not, maybe nearly impossible to get into the city," he told ABC7 News. He plans to sign up for the new program which will offer home loan down payment assistance up to $100,000 to first responders -- firefighters, police, and members of the sheriff's department.

To qualify, the first responders must not have owned a home in the city for the past three years, must sell any other residence, must have 5 percent of the down payment, and can't have a household income above 200 percent of the area median income -- about $200,000 for a family of four.

Supervisor Mark Farrell helped craft the program. "It's a new policy priority here in San Francisco based on vocation, not just income," he explained.

"Of course first responders make more money than so many other jobs, but is it enough to purchase a house in san Francisco? No," said Mercy Ambat with the San Francisco Sheriff's Department. She's an investigator with the sheriff's department who says the loan assistance could help her move from San Mateo to San Francisco.

The program will be paid for through Proposition C, the housing trust fund passed by the voters last year. Housing advocate Gabriel Medina with the Mission Economic Development Agency says he hasn't seen the final details, but he has some concerns.

"There are people that don't have as high an income that are first responders that the city relies on to survive, especially in an emergency. And that's our nurses and our 9-1-1 operators," he said.

City officials say they hope to expand the program over the years to take in those first responders too.

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