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How the new government initiative could help condo buyers

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How the new government initiative could help condo buyers

The federal government wants to help you buy your first home. In the 2019 budget, the government unveiled brand new plans that, it says, will help young buyers who have been shut out of the real estate market.

This includes the new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive and the expanding of the ‘Home Buyers’ Plan. Both can be used to buy a condo unit. Here is what you need to know.

Criteria to qualify

The new First-Time Homebuyer Incentive will allow eligible first-time homebuyers to apply to finance a portion of their home purchase through a shared equity mortgage with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC). Eligibility means you have to have the minimum down payment for an insured mortgage. That is five per cent for a resale home and 10 per cent for a new home. Your household annual income cannot exceed $120,000. Lastly, the insured mortgage cannot be greater than four times the participants’ annual household income. Meaning the mortgage cannot exceed $480,000.

Pay back rules not clear

It’s not clear how much has to be paid back; is it an equal equity share or money borrowed plus interest? Those terms and conditions are expected to be released by CMHC. But the government clearly states that no ongoing payment will be required while you own your first home or still have a mortgage payment on it.

How it claims to help

The thinking is this will lower your overall monthly payments, effectively making your home more affordable to live in then if you had to carry a larger mortgage. Here is an example the federal budget detailed:

If a borrower purchases a new $400,000 home with a five percent down payment and a 10-per-cent CMHC shared equity mortgage ($40,000), the borrower’s total mortgage size would be reduced from $380,000 to $340,000, reducing the borrower’s monthly mortgage costs by as much as $228 per month.

Old program limit increased

Along with this new initiative, the government proposes to increase the Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $35,000. First-time homebuyers who have money saved in their RRSP can withdraw that amount without penalty to use towards the down payment on their first home. That money has to be paid back into the RRSP over 15 years. If you borrow the maximum amount you would need to deposit $2,333 a year back into your RRSP. Bear in mind that is on top of all the regular mortgage payments you would be making.

Little to help affordability

Critics say this will do little to help young people in Canada’s most expensive markets such as Toronto and Vancouver, as average home prices are in the seven figures. But these schemes could be advantageous for anyone looking to buy their first condo unit. According to the latest figures from the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average price of a condominium apartment was $558,728 at the end of 2018.

Before the new initiatives were announced in the federal budget, Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis, said, “The condominium apartment segment continued to be a key entry point into the GTA homeownership market in 2018. Higher mortgage qualification standards meant that many first-time buyers were looking for more affordable housing options.”

If you’re a first-time homebuyer shopping for a condo in that price range, you could be in luck. But for most others, these plans will do little to help Canadians afford to live in the most expensive cities.

Rubina Ahmed-Haq is a journalist and personal finance expert. She is HPG’s Finance Editor. She regularly appears on CBC Radio and TV. She is a contributor on CTV Your Morning and Global Toronto. She has a BA from York University, received her post graduate journalism diploma from Humber College and has completed the CSC. Follow her on Twitter @alwayssavemoney.

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