Making home ownership a little more accessible

May 7, 2022by Akmin

The difficulties faced by younger Canadians in buying a first home almost anywhere in Canada, owing to both the spiraling cost of real estate and, more recently, increases in interest rates, is a major concern for those individuals and their families. Not surprisingly, then, the issue of housing affordability was a major focus of the recent federal budget, and the following measures to address that problem were announced.

Tax-Free First Home Savings Account

The most significant housing affordability measure announced in the budget was the creation of a new program – the Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA) which, as the name implies, allows first time home buyers to save (within prescribed limits) toward the purchase of a first home.

Under the program terms, any resident of Canada who is at least 18 years of age and who has not lived in a home which he or she owns in any of the current or four previous years can open an FHSA and contribute to that plan annually.

Beginning in 2023, planholders will be able to contribute up to $8,000 per year to their plan, regardless of their income for that year. The $8,000 per year contribution limit cannot be carried over to future years – in other words, if a planholder makes less than the maximum allowable contribution in any year, his or her contribution limit for subsequent years is still $8,000. As well, there is a lifetime limit of $40,000 in contributions for each individual.

The real benefit of the FHSA program lies in the tax treatment of contributions. Individuals who contribute any amount in a year can deduct that amount from income, in the same manner as a registered retirement savings plan contribution. As well, investment income of any kind which is earned by contributed funds held in the plan is not taxed as it is earned. Finally, when the planholder withdraws funds from the plan to purchase a first home, those withdrawal amounts – representing both original contributions and investment income earned by those contributions – are not taxed.

Given the generous tax treatment accorded contributions to an FHSA, there are inevitably some qualifications and restrictions placed on the use of the plans. First, amounts withdrawn from an FHSA are received tax-free only if those funds are used to make a qualifying home purchase. Amounts withdrawn and used for any other purpose are fully taxable.

Individuals who open an FHSA have 15 years from the date the plan is opened to use the funds for a qualifying home purchase. While this does place some pressure on planholders with respect to the timing of their home purchase, there is some flexibility. Specifically, planholders who have not made a qualifying home purchase within the required 15-year time frame must then close the FHSA plan, but are allowed to transfer funds held in the FHSA to their RRSP. Significantly, the amount which is transferred from an FHSA to an RRSP isn’t reduced or limited in any way by the individual’s RRSP contribution room. However, transfers made to an RRSP in these circumstances do not replenish FHSA contribution room – in other words, each eligible individual gets only one opportunity to save for a first-time home purchase using an FHSA. And, of course, any amounts transferred from an FHSA to an RRSP will be taxable on withdrawal, in the same way as any other RRSP withdrawal.

Finally, individuals who have managed to accumulate funds within an RRSP will be allowed to transfer (subject to the $8,000 annual and $40,000 lifetime contributions limits) such funds to an FHSA on a tax-free basis, where they would then be subject to the usual rules governing an FHSA. Such individuals would not, however, be entitled to replace those funds within the RRSP.

Our tax system already provides a means to save for home ownership on a tax-assisted basis – the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP). Under that Plan, an individual can withdraw up to $35,000 from his or her RRSP and use those funds for the purchase of a first home. Any such funds withdrawn must then be repaid to the RRSP over the next 15 years. The Home Buyers’ Plan will continue to be available to Canadians – however, an individual will not be permitted to make both an FHSA withdrawal and an HBP withdrawal in respect of the same qualifying home purchase.

First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit

First time home buyers in Canada can already claim a non-refundable federal tax credit of up to $750 (which can be shared between spouses) when purchasing a home which they will occupy as a principal residence.

The budget proposes to increase the amount of that Home Buyers’ Tax Credit to $1,500, and spouses and common-law partners will continue to be able to split the value of the credit.

The increase applies to acquisitions of a qualifying home made after 2021.

Details of each of these measures can be found in the 2022 Federal Budget papers, which are available on the federal government website at

The information presented is only of a general nature, may omit many details and special rules, is current only as of its published date, and accordingly cannot be regarded as legal or tax advice. Please contact our office for more information on this subject and how it pertains to your specific tax or financial situation.