Volunteer First Responder Housing Act Introduced in Senate

On September 19, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), along with original co-sponsor Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), introduced the Volunteer First Responder Housing Act (S. 1831), which would expand eligibility for qualified volunteer emergency responders to participate in two existing federal housing assistance programs. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) provided feedback to Senator Heitkamp’s office on S. 1831 prior to introduction and has endorsed the legislation.

S. 1831 makes it possible for more volunteer emergency responders to participate in the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That program assists lenders in providing low- and moderate-income households loans to build, rehabilitate, improve, or relocate a dwelling in an eligible rural area. S. 1831 allows volunteers to participate in the loan program even if their income exceeds the maximum allowable income level by up to $18,000.

The bill also makes volunteer emergency responders eligible to participate in the Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Currently, that program gives career public safety officers as well as teachers a 50 percent discount from the list price on homes located in revitalization areas.

“I’d like to thank Senator Heitkamp and Senator Tester for introducing this important legislation,” said NVFC Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “Throughout the nation, one of the challenges that volunteer fire and EMS agencies face is staffing disruption due to personnel moving, either for work or because they are priced out of the community where they live. Giving volunteer emergency responders access to housing assistance programs will provide agencies a powerful recruitment and retention tool, and make it easier for firefighters and EMS providers to continue living in the same community where they volunteer.”

You can use the NVFC’s Legislative Action Center to contact your U.S. Senators to ask them to co-sponsor S. 1831.