SF Announces Down Payment Assistance Program For First Responders

San Francisco’s first responders will be eligible to receive up to $100,000 in assistance for a down payment on a home through a program launched today by Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials.

The program, created as part of the housing trust fund initiative approved by San Francisco voters in 2012, is an attempt to get the city’s police officers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies to live near where they work, the mayor said.

“We want you here all the time, 24/7,” Lee said at a news conference outside City Hall this morning attended by the city’s top law enforcement officials.

He noted the importance of having first responders living nearby in the event of a disaster, citing the recent Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport as an example.

“Those first critical hours when an event hits our city, we want them here,” Lee said.

The loans would be for up to $100,000 per household, with the money being returned to the city once the house is sold, Supervisor Mark Farrell said.

Farrell said he pushed for first-responder financial assistance to be included in the ballot initiative because many police officers and firefighters are being pushed out of the city by the high cost of housing.

Senior Deputy Sheriff Mercy Ambat said she is an example of that problem.

“It’s really hard for me to find a house in San Francisco,” Ambat said.

Ambat said she is currently living in a rental in San Mateo but is among many first responders who want to live in San Francisco.

“We want to serve this city. This is where we belong,” she said.

To be eligible for the program, an applicant must be an active member of the city’s police, fire or sheriff’s department and must contribute at least 5 percent of the down payment toward the purchase price of the home, among other requirements.

Funding for the down payment assistance comes from $20 million set aside from the city’s general fund for the housing trust programs—a number that will increase to $50 million over time, according to the mayor’s office.

Other programs included in the housing trust fund are the development of more than 9,000 affordable housing units and the creation of a housing stabilization program to help distressed low- and moderate-income residents stay in their homes, according to the mayor’s office.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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