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Derek Bissen, June 23 2023

​Meet the New and Improved Florida Hometown Heroes Program

​The Florida Hometown Heroes Down Payment Assistance Program has been one of the most popular​ and successful​ programs here in the state of Florida for the past several years. The program has undergone an exciting expansion in 2023, and this article, we'll be introducing you to the new and improved Florida Hometown Heroes Program. 



The Florida Hometown Heroes Program is a state affordable lending initiative in the state of Florida through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation that aims to promote homeownership for first time homebuyers, veterans and active-duty military personnel. With this program, home buyers can receive up to $35,000 to use towards down payment and closing costs. Best of all, this program is available to any first-time homebuyer working full time for a Florida business or any Veteran or Active-Duty Service member.

The interest rates and terms are extremely competitive, and there are no discount points or other expensive fees in the process.

The Florida Hometown Heroes program is only available through an authorized participating lender. Participating lenders and the individual loan officer must be approved and trained on the program through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.  Additionally, the loan officer themselves must be a resident of the state of Florida. 

The interest rates and terms for the program are the same for all participating lenders.

2. How does the process work?

First, you apply for the mortgage with any authorized participating Hometown Heroes lender. The lender will preapprove you in the same manner as a standard loan.  

Once you have selected a home and you are officially under contract on the home, the lender sends out the official mortgage disclosures and orders the home appraisal. 

During the process the lender will  coordinate the down payment assistance funds so that your down payment assistance funds are available on the day of your closing.  Speaking about those down payment assistance funds, let’s talk about that for a moment.

3. How does the down payment assistance money work with the Florida Hometown Heroes program?

The down payment assistance for the Florida Hometown Heroes Program is a 0% interest, 30 year deferred second mortgage. There is no monthly payment due on these funds. 

The assistance loan must always be repaid in full when the home is sold, refinanced, if the homeowner moves to another home, or when the first mortgage eventually comes to term.  At no time is the down payment assistance forgiven.

Unlike other down payment assistance programs, this one is continually-funded, so it doesn’t run out of money.  This is a key benefit of the program. If a program is not continually-funded, it means that the fund may run out of money while you’re shopping for the perfect home, which can be an extremely disappointing, stressful, and potentially costly situation for any home buyer. 

Since the Florida Hometown Heroes Program is a continually-funded program, you never have to worry about that happening to you!

4.  Who Qualifies for the new Florida Hometown Heroes Program?

There has recently undergone major changes in 2023. The Florida Hometown Heroes Program originally began June 1, 2022 in as a state initiative to assist first time homebuyers who are workers in over 50 different critical professions, including teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, healthcare professionals, childcare employees, veterans and active military service members. 

In early 2023, the program received substantial additional funding from the State of Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis in early 2023 and with it, an expanded mission to help even more first-time homeowners, veterans and active military service members.

UNDER THE NEW 2023 GUIDELINES WHICH WENT INFO EFFECT AS OF JULY 1, 2023, THE PROGRAM NOW ALLOWS ANY FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER TO QUALIFY, AS LONG AS AT LEAST ONE APPLICANT WORKS FULL-TIME (35+ HOURS/WEEK) FOR A FLORIDA BUSINESS. The business must be headquartered or have a brick & mortar location in Florida. Veterans and active-duty service members remain eligible for the program, and they do not need to be first-time homebuyers to qualify.


To be eligible for the Florida Hometown Heroes Program, applicants must meet the following basic criteria:

● FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS: Applicants must be a first-time homebuyer *OR* must not have owned a home in the most recent 3 years.  You will be required to take a first-time homebuyer course.  And for our clients, we’ll provide you with a FREE homebuyer course.

● EMPLOYMENT: Applicants must be employed full-time (35 hours/week) by a Florida-based business (business must have a headquarters or a brick & mortar location in Florida).  Veterans and Active Duty Service Members are exempt from this employment requirement.

● INCOME LIMITS: The program is available to applicants making up to 150% of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the county where the home is located. In the state of Florida, this means a range of $118,950 - $162,750.  As long as your income remains at or below the county limit, this means To find your county, click HERE »   

      (NOTE: Veterans and Active-Duty service members are exempt from this income limit requirement)

● CREDIT SCORE: All applicants must have a middle credit score of 640 or higher.  (660 if you are financing a Manufactured Home)

● DTI LIMITS: Under this program, applicants must have a maximum debt-vs-gross income ratio of 50% (45% if you are financing a Manufactured Home)


● OCCUPANCY: This program is designed for owner-occupied homes only.  This program cannot be used to finance second/vacation homes, or investment properties.

● LOAN APPROVAL: Applicants must qualify for one of 4 different traditional mortgage loan programs:·     

Your Loan Originator can help you determine the right program for you. 


To be eligible for the Florida Hometown Heroes Program, applicants must apply with an authorized participating lender.  Since we are an authorized participating lender,  let’s walk you through the process so you can see how it works.


This is your Hometown Heroes Headquarters. Here you’ll find all the resources you’ll need, including forms, down payment assistance calculators, income limit charts, as well as links to free homebuyer education courses.

If this is your first time buying a home, we recommend that you call us first before starting your online application. This allows us to talk with you about the loan process, discuss your scenario and find the right program for your needs.  It also allows us to answer all of your questions.

When you’re ready to begin the application, you can do that right HERE »


1.     First, our system will begin prompting you to begin uploading your documents.  If you're not ready for this step just yet, no worries….you can use this link to return to your application where you left off.

2.     Next we’ll initiate a phone call with you to review the details of your application.  This is a normal part of the process and it’s done to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If you’re unavailable when we call, no worries! We’ll also send you a voicemail, email and a text message, so just let us know the best time to schedule a 3-5 minute block of your time. 

Once we have everything we need, in most cases, we will have your preapproval decision completed within about 1 business day.  

When you’re approved, you’ll receive a Preapproval letter and you’re free to shop for any eligible home.  If you or your Realtor have any questions along the way, we’re always here to help!


If you've never owned a home before, trust me here, nothing compares to the pride and joy you experience of owning your own home. Just imagine, no more annoying landlords, no more permission to paint the walls, no more noisy upstairs neighbors, and you may even be able to get a bigger tax refund next year because you may be able to itemize and deduct the interest from your mortgage payments on your Federal Income Tax Returns, all while your home grows in value over time.  And thanks to the Florida Hometown Heroes program—homeownership is closer than ever.

If you’re buying your first home anywhere in the state of Florida, we’d love the opportunity to you assist you.

Yours in successful homeownership,

Derek Bissen
Loan Originator
Unconventional Lending Program Director


Derek Bissen is a licensed Mortgage Loan Originator with over 25 years of experience in the industry. Derek is a self-employed lending expert who is known for his ability to work with borrowers who have substantial wealth and non-traditional lending needs. He is a creative loan structurer and specializes in portfolio lending, asset-based lending, bank statement lending, as well as traditional loans such as Conventional, FHA, VA, and first-time homebuyers.

Derek's expertise in the mortgage industry is unparalleled. He is a trusted advisor to his clients, providing them with customized loan solutions that meet their unique financial goals and needs. His vast experience and knowledge make him a valuable asset to anyone looking to purchase a home or refinance their existing mortgage.

As a highly-experienced loan originator and author, Derek is committed to sharing his knowledge with others. He regularly provides valuable insights and advice to readers looking to navigate the complex world of mortgage lending. His articles are informative, engaging, and backed by years of hands-on experience.

With his wealth of knowledge and dedication to his clients, he is the go-to source for all your mortgage lending needs. If you're looking for a reliable and trustworthy mortgage expert, contact Derek today to learn more about how he can help you achieve your financial goals.

Written by

Derek Bissen

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