Affordable housing for volunteer firefighters and first responders

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) Volunteer firefighters and fist responders are crucial in many communities, but one thing some volunteers struggle with is affordable housing.

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds is looking to tackle the affordable housing issue for volunteer firefighters and first responders. (KEVN)

Affordable housing. An issue affecting many across the nation, but how does it impact volunteer firefighters and first responders?

"More volunteers that have young families and getting started in life need that help because it's tough to find some affordable housing," says the fire administrator for Pennington County, Jerome Harvey.

South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds recently introduced The Volunteer First Responder Housing Act to try tackling the problem.

In a release issued by Rounds, "The act would expand eligibility for qualified volunteer first responders to participate in certain federal housing assistance programs and provide a greater incentive for more volunteers to stay and continue to serve their communities."

In South Dakota, Harvey says the fire service is made up of 92.8% volunteers. So making sure they stay in the state and have the opportunity to live where they serve is crucial.

"Those are the people that you want to stay in the community. And anything that our congregational delegation can do to help that. To help the local community stay vibrant and keep those people here. That is a huge effort," says Harvey.

And with the nationwide shortage of volunteers, some believe this legislation could help.

"Any tool that they can give to people that are volunteering in any kind of first responder capacity given the shortage nationwide could be valuable to any community," says the assistant fire chief for Box Elder, Adam Kuenkel.