Bill Seeks To Increase Affordable Housing For Volunteer Firefighters
In an effort to recruit and support volunteer firefighters and first responders in Montana, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., recently introduced the bipartisan Volunteer First Responder Housing Act to expand affordable housing options for volunteer firefighters and first responders, especially in rural and under- served communities.
The bill is also supported by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).
“Montana’s volunteer first responders put themselves in harm’s way to keep our communities safe, and we owe it to them to make sure they’ve got what they need to keep up their life-saving work,” said Tester. “That includes helping them get a roof over their heads wherever they are serving, so that they have a safe, affordable, and convenient place to call home. I’m proud to be working with my colleagues to expand housing access for these brave men and women, and I’ll keep working until we get this bill passed into law.”
The Volunteer First Responder Housing Act 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 Rural Development. This existing program assists approved lenders in providing loans to low- and moderate-income households to build, rehabilitate, or improve a home in eligible rural areas. The bill will allow volunteers to participate in the loan program even if their income exceeds the maximum allowable income level by up to $18,000.
It also makes volunteer emergency responders eligible to participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program. This existing program gives law enforcement, teachers, career firefighters and emergency medical technicians a 50 percent discount from the list price of a home located in a revitalization area.
Tester currently serves as chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and has long been a champion for Montana’s firefighters. In April, the Senate passed Tester’s Fire Grants and Safety Act, which will reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) Program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program to help fire departments purchase equipment. And in March, Tester reintroduced his bipartisan Fire Station Construction Grant Act, which would create a $750 million federal grant program to build, maintain, and update fire stations across the United States.