Nova Scotia has expanded eligibility for its home down payment program by adopting the definition of "first-time homebuyer" used by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).
The Down Payment Assistance Program provides eligible people buying their first home with an interest-free loan of five per cent of the value of the property.
The province now defines a first-time homebuyer as someone who:
Has never purchased a home before.
Has gone through a breakdown of marriage or common-law partnership.
Has not occupied a home they or their partner have owned in the last four years.
This could mean former homeowners who haven't owned property for at least four years and want to get back into the market or property owners who have been renting out their property and are looking to purchase another, a spokesperson with the province said.
"But that is just one piece. There are other eligibility requirements that an applicant would need to meet to qualify for down payment assistance, such as the income threshold," Krista Higdon said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
As of Oct. 31, the province said it had approved 108 applications for 2022-23. Higdon said it's difficult to estimate how many more people will be eligible in light of these recent changes, as applicants will need to meet other eligibility requirements.
Households must earn less than $145,000 to qualify, and the maximum eligible value of a home depends on where the applicant lives in the province.
Halifax Regional Municipality: $500,000.
Northern and eastern regions encompassing Cumberland, Colchester, Pictou, Antigonish, Guysborough and Cape Breton: $300,000.
Yarmouth region: $300,000.
Annapolis Valley and the South Shore: $375,000.
The maximum down payment loan is $25,000 repayable over 10 years starting one month after the issuing of the loan.
New rules come into effect in January
Tory Rushton, minister of natural resources and renewables, announced the expansion on behalf of Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr. He said the government was pleased to make the change.
"It considers changing life circumstances," Rushton said in a news release Tuesday. "A broader definition means more people who need help from this program and are looking to buy a home will be included."
The province will start accepting applications based on the new definition in January.
Roger Boutilier, CEO of the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors, said realtors were concerned about the limited definition of a first-time buyer.
"We are pleased to see an updated definition today. Any time levels of government align definitions and policies is a benefit to Canadians," he said in the release.
In October, the average price of a residential home in Nova Scotia was $385,756, an increase of 5.7 per cent year over year, according to the association.
This past summer, the province changed the program to increase the maximum market price eligibility of the property and the maximum household income eligibility. It also removed a sliding scale to provide the full five per cent loan to all applicants.
These changes were made amid rising real estate prices and the increase in cost of living.
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