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Liberals’ mortgage help for first-time buyers lands Sept. 2, weeks before vote

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OTTAWA — A new federal program aiming to give homebuyers some help covering their mortgage costs will kick in on Labour Day — weeks before a federal election — with the first payments flowing in early November, just days after voters across Canada go to the polls.

The Liberals unveiled details Monday of the $1.25-billion plan, which will see the government take an equity stake in thousands of homes to ease mortgage costs for qualified buyers.

The rules of the program would allow previous homeowners to qualify under certain conditions, permit the purchase of a building with up to four units, and help with a maximum purchase price of $565,000, based on government calculations.

The program will begin taking applications on Sept. 2, days before what is expected to be the official start of a federal election campaign where the cost of living — including housing affordability — is shaping up as a central issue. 

The first payments would flow on Nov. 1,  two weeks after election day on Oct. 21.

Government officials said Sept. 2 was the earliest possible start date, while the minister in charge brushed off the suggestion that the governing Liberals hope to use the launch date for partisan gains.

“If we look at what we’ve done since Day 1, housing investments have been key in all four federal budgets since 2016,” Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in an interview.

“Every one of the federal budgets in those four years has included significant measures around housing affordability and, look, we’ll continue to do so. We’re not going to be stopped because there is an election coming.”

The first-come, first-served program will see federal funds pick up five per cent of a mortgage on existing homes for households that earn under $120,000 a year, on a mortgage of no more than $480,000. The value increases to up to 10 per cent for new homes to spur construction and expand supply to avoid heating housing prices.

There isn’t any interest on the money, but a buyer would have to repay it in full when they sell their house or after 25 years of living in the home. An early repayment carries no penalties.

If the value of the home goes up, so too does the amount of money owed to federal coffers. The opposite will be the case if the value of a home goes down.

Federal officials said there isn’t a specific policy on what to do with any profits — some organizations that already provide these “shared-equity mortgages” use windfalls to expand their offerings — so the extra cash will for now flow back into the government’s general revenue pool.

The officials provided the information during a briefing for reporters on the condition that they not be identified by name.

The government estimates that some 100,000 new buyers could be helped by the program. Depending on the interest for it, the next government could be forced into a decision: increase spending at risk of boosting demand and heating prices, or stand pat and exclude buyers.

Liberal efforts to make housing more affordable will be back in the spotlight on Tuesday when the parliamentary budget officer releases a report scrutinizing federal spending in the area.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer Tamara Lich expected to have bail hearing today

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OTTAWA — Tamara Lich, an organizer of the “Freedom Convoy,” is set to appear in an Ottawa court today for a bail hearing after being arrested last week for allegedly breaching one of her bail conditions.

She was arrested in Medicine Hat, Alta., where she lives, on a Canada-wide arrest warrant sought by the Ottawa police.

Police transported her to the capital and she briefly appeared before an Ottawa judge on Thursday before remaining in custody over the weekend.

Lich was a key figurehead of the massive protest that overtook the capital’s downtown streets for more than three weeks in February.

She and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.

She was released with a long list of conditions, including a ban from all social media and an order not to support anything related to the “Freedom Convoy.”

Police have not said which condition she’s accused of breaching.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

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Economy

Bank of Canada’s rapid rate hikes likely to cause a recession, study finds

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OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada’s strategy of rapidly increasing its key interest rate in an effort to tackle skyrocketing inflation will likely trigger a recession, a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) says.

The research institute says if the central bank aims to bring inflation down from 7.7 per cent to its two per cent target by quickly raising rates, it could cause significant “collateral damage,” including 850,000 job losses.

It adds that the central bank has had a zero per cent success rate with this approach, noting that a 5.7 per cent drop in the inflation rate has happened three times over the last 60 years, each time after big rate hikes and accompanied by a recession.

The CCPA says it’s time for a new policy on inflation.

It says the Bank of Canada could potentially reduce the risk of sending the economy into a recession if it adjusts its target inflation rate to four per cent.

This study comes a day after the Bank of Canada released two quarterly surveys which revealed consumers and businesses expect inflation to stay high for several years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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