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GUEST COLUMN: 'Skyrocketing home prices' forcing police, teachers out of cities they service| Opinion

Published By Columbus Dispatch on February 15, 2022
Haraz N. Ghanbari In The News

At the end of one of the many recent police ride-alongs I participate in across Ohio, I looked into the eyes of an officer just wrapping up another long shift at a department already stretched thin. 

 I saw the once-burning passion for a lifelong dream beginning to fade under the burden of a painful reality.

Many police officers can simply no longer afford to live in the communities where they serve due to skyrocketing home prices, forcing them to change jobs or even leave the profession altogether.

A historic crime surge combined with a wave of police resignations and retirements in many major U.S. cities over the last year has been well-documented. But the lesser-known housing crisis may be the straw that could very well break the camel’s back and create a much larger public safety crisis.

Housing crisis: Experts: City's 'wonderful magic carpet ride' might end if housing crisis isn't fixed

A recent survey from Police1 found that 68% of police officers believe housing costs have now reached a level where it presents a considerable obstacle to recruiting new officers.

Thirty-four percent have left agencies because they were unable to find adequate housing. Nearly one in five have rented hotels or shared apartments with other officers, often several minutes away from their home jurisdiction.

In places like Phoenix and Tampa, housing prices are up 25-30% over the last 12 months, nearly 10 times the amount of annual salary increases for everyday cops.

For these reasons, I am calling upon Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and Ohio’s U.S. House delegation to expedite passage of the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator and Responder (HELPER) Act. 

Recently introduced in both chambers by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, this common-sense legislation would eliminate down payment requirements and offer 100% financing for one-time home purchases for buyers who fall within one of the frontline hero categories: police and corrections officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, and pre-K-12 teachers. 

Costly monthly mortgage insurance premiums that are typically required within the FHA system would also be eliminated.

The act mirrors what is already offered to our military servicemembers and veterans in the GI Bill, which has proven to be successful for many decades now.

It would complement ongoing recruiting initiatives here in Ohio, like one I am spearheading that would award an associate’s degree to state troopers and others who graduate from the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy in exchange for a set period of service.

Unlike most other legislation these days, the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator and Responder Act has attracted widespread support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers from every corner of the country.

Senators Marco Rubio and Jon Ossoff recently set aside their differences on other matters to introduce this bill in the Senate because they understand supporting those who protect our communities is a generational investment that pays dividends for the safety and security of our communities.

Regardless of our political affiliation or leanings, we all want safe communities. Strong businesses, healthy schools, and thriving neighborhoods all share the common denominator of being located in jurisdictions that have the resources to train, equip and sustain the necessary manpower to protect their citizens, which is ultimately the primary purpose of government.

We cannot risk the ramifications of a mass exodus among our law enforcement agencies sparked by a housing crisis that is easily preventable. 

Those weary eyes from the overnight shift now fall on those who represent us in Washington.

Our police and frontline heroes have risen to historic challenges and given us their best every time. Now it’s time for those we elected to do likewise.

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