Volunteer emergency responders receive housing assistance under new bill

A new bill could expand housing assistance for volunteer emergency responders.

The Volunteer First Responder Housing Act was introduced by a number of lawmakers including Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) on Wednesday.

The bill makes it possible for volunteer firefighters and other responders to be a part of government programs that make housing options more affordable.

Emergency responders would gain access to the Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program. This makes volunteers eligible for a 50% discount from the listed price of homes located in revitalized areas.

The bill also makes it possible for more responders to participate in the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, providing loans to low and moderate income households to build, rehabilitate or improve a home in eligible rural areas.

According to the US Fire Association, more than 90% of fire departments in Wisconsin are staffed by mostly or all volunteers.

As these departments continue to struggle with staffing needs, Sen. Baldwin says this bill provides incentive for volunteers through affordable living.

“I hear from the communities that are experiencing these challenges, they’re pointing to a lot of obstacles. But one of them is just the affordability of housing,” said Sen. Baldwin. “If you can’t afford to live in a community, then it’s awfully difficult to continue to serve that community as a volunteer.”

The legislation is supported by many statewide stakeholders, including the Wisconsin State Firefighters Association, Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association, Wisconsin Counties Association, and Wisconsin Towns Association.

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