N.S. Liberals call for changes to down payment assistance program

·2 min read
Nova Scotia government officials are reviewing the down payment assistance program so it better aligns with the current housing market. (Robson Fletcher/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia government officials are reviewing the down payment assistance program so it better aligns with the current housing market. (Robson Fletcher/CBC - image credit)

The Nova Scotia Liberal Party is calling on the provincial government to increase the cap on home purchase prices that qualify for the down payment assistance program.

The interest-free loans are intended to help first-time homebuyers who have a total household income less than $75,000 and don't have the ability to pay five per cent of the purchase price without help.

The purchase price cannot exceed $300,000 in Halifax Regional Municipality and $200,000 in the rest of the province.

Liberal housing critic Lorelei Nicoll said that's a problem.

"I haven't seen a home listed in HRM in the past year for $300,000," she said in an interview.

Given the state of the province's housing market, which is being fuelled by bidding wars on properties and an average sale price of $452,000, the down payment program has become borderline obsolete and needs to be revisited, Nicoll said.

"There should be some kind of indexing that's an automatic thing that's done as the market changes," she said.

Decreased use since 2019

The Liberals released numbers Friday obtained through an access to information request that show use of the program has plummeted across the province in recent years.

In the central region of the province, the breakdown is:

  • 2019: 88 clients.

  • 2020: 67 clients.

  • 2021: 20 clients.

  • 2022 (as of May 9): 3 clients.

In the eastern region:

  • 2019: 32 clients.

  • 2020: 17 clients.

  • 2021: 10 clients.

  • 2022 (as of May 9): 1 client.

In the northern region:

  • 2019: 48 clients.

  • 2020: 24 clients.

  • 2021: 20 clients.

  • 2022 (as of May 9): 3 clients.

In the western region:

  • 2019: 54 clients.

  • 2020: 22 clients.

  • 2021: 13 clients.

  • 2022 (as of May 9): 5 clients.

Department reviewing the program

With no sign of the market cooling and many first-time buyers struggling to find a place, Nicoll said the government needs to revisit the program to ensure it actually provides assistance in today's landscape.

A spokesperson for the Municipal Affairs and Housing Department said the government is aware it is becoming increasingly difficult for first-time homebuyers to purchase a home, and the parameters of the down payment program are being reviewed to better align with current market conditions.

The department doubled the program budget to $4.2 million this year in anticipation of upcoming changes, the spokesperson said.

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