Bloomington ends public safety housing pilot program

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (IUSTV News) —  The City of Bloomington is ending a $3 million pilot program that would have provided mortgage assistance for 20 public safety officers, Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson announced Thursday.

Thomson cut the program over concerns about the high price tag and “financial impossibility” of making the program available to all public safety officers.

Former Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton announced the creation of the program in February 2023, with the goal of increasing recruitment and retention numbers for Bloomington Fire and Bloomington Police officers. In December, the city signed a contract with Fahe to officially launch the program. 

Public safety officers would have received $100,000 no-interest down-payment on a home in Bloomington as an incentive to live and work in the city. Officers would have received $10,000 per year over ten years to pay off the down-payment loan.

“We’ve spent several months working with the great people at Fahe to understand how this complicated program would be administered,” Mayor Thomson said. “After investigating the costs for the City and for participants, and consulting with police, fire, and union leaderships, we have come to the conclusion that this pilot would not be an equitable or cost-effective use of City funds. Instead, we’ll seek scaleable, sustainable solutions to attract and retain public safety officers.” 

Since the program was announced February 2023, the city said seven people have expressed interest in the program, but no one relocated or transferred based on the offer. The city also said no one reached the stage of applying for Fahe eligibility. 

Paul Post, President of Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88 for the Fraternal Order of Police approved of the decision to cut the program, saying, “We appreciate Mayor Thomson notifying us about this decision, and support her review of the previous administration’s financial actions.”

Post added “The FOP looks forward to working with her administration to find further recruiting and retention efforts to get BPD back up to fully staffed and recognize the hard work of the existing officers.”

“We are very proud of our dedicated firefighters and police officers, and we are collaborating with Chiefs Kerr and Diekhoff, Human Resources, and union leadership to understand and meet their recruitment and retention needs in sustainable ways,” Mayor Thomson said.