More help for first time home buyers

May 1, 2024by Akmin

As everyone knows, buying one’s first home – achieving that elusive first step on to the “property ladder” – has always presented a challenge, and that challenge has rarely been greater than it is now. The two unavoidable hurdles which must be cleared by first time home buyers are putting together sufficient funds for a down payment, and qualifying for mortgage financing under mortgage lending requirements which have become increasingly stringent in recent years. Soaring house prices and mortgage interest rates which have steadily increased over the past two years combine to make it difficult to clear either or both of those hurdles.

Help is provided to first time home buyers through a number of federal and provincial tax credit or tax deferral programs, and three new measures recently announced by the federal government as part of the 2024-25 Federal Budget are intended to provide further assistance with putting together a down payment, qualifying for mortgage financing, and repaying amounts borrowed to purchase a first home.

Changes to the Home Buyers’ Plan

The first two measures relate to changes to the federal Home Buyers’ Plan, or HBP. The HBP allows first-time buyers who have money saved in a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) to withdraw the funds held in that RRSP (to a prescribed limit) on a tax-free basis, as long as those funds are used toward the purchase of a first home. Under current rules, a first-time home buyer can withdraw up to $35,000 from his or her RRSP to use toward the purchase of a first home.

This year’s Federal Budget included a proposal to increase the amount which each individual can withdraw on a tax-free basis from their RRSP for the purchase of a first home from $35,000 to $60,000. The change is effective for RRSP withdrawals made by HBP participants after the federal budget date of April 16, 2024.

While the HBP rules allow first-time home buyers to withdraw funds on a tax-free basis from their RRSPs, those rules also require that the funds be repaid to the RRSP. That repayment takes place on a prescribed schedule – repayments in a specified amount must start in the second year after the withdrawal was made and must be completed within 15 years. In any year(s) in which a required repayment is not made in full, the amount of any repayment not made is included in the income of the RRSP holder for the year and is fully taxed as income.

The first few years of home ownership are often the most challenging from a financial perspective, as new homeowners adjust to the need to make regular mortgage payments and property tax payments and to meet all of the varied (and often unanticipated) expenses that home ownership entails. Having to also make repayments to one’s RRSP at the same time undoubtedly adds to the financial stress.

In this year’s budget, the federal government proposed a change in the repayment rules for the HBP. As a temporary measure, HBP participants who make a first withdrawal from their RRSP between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2025 will not be required to begin repaying those amounts to their RRSP until the fifth year after the year in which the withdrawal was made. Full repayment will still have to be made in prescribed amounts and within the required 15-year repayment period.

Extended amortization on new build purchases by first-time buyers

For all but the most fortunate first-time home buyers, purchasing a home means borrowing money to cover the difference between the down payment amount and the total purchase price of the home. For most, that means taking out a mortgage which must be repaid in specified amounts over a specified period of time (known as the “amortization period”).

The “standard” repayment or amortization period for residential mortgages is 25 years. Opting for a shorter amortization period means higher mortgage payments and, conversely, where the amortization period is longer than 25 years, the amount of monthly mortgage payments goes down. The recent federal government announcement allows qualifying first-time home buyers, as of August 1, 2024, to extend the amortization (repayment) period for their mortgage to 30 years. Significantly, however, that extended amortization period will be available only to first-time buyers who purchase newly-built homes.

Having the ability to extend the amortization period in this way will have two benefits. First, of course, having lower mortgage payments will ease the financial stress of first-time home ownership. As well, first-time home buyers who opt for a 30-year amortization period and therefore have smaller monthly mortgage payments will likely also find it easier to qualify for more mortgage financing. When assessing the creditworthiness of a mortgage financing applicant, one of the metrics used by a lender is the percentage of income required to meet monthly mortgage payments, along with other debt repayment obligations (car payments, credit card debt, etc.). Where monthly mortgage payment amounts are reduced by an extended amortization period, the percentage of income which the prospective home buyer must allocate to debt repayment goes down, meaning that their creditworthiness, and the amount of mortgage financing for which they qualify, may increase.

Each of these measures is intended to help qualifying first-time home buyers get into the housing market, and each will undoubtedly have that effect. However, as with nearly all financial and tax planning strategies, there are potential downsides which have to be considered. Withdrawing funds from an RRSP inevitably reduces the amount of investment income which those funds can earn, and ultimately means reduced retirement savings over the long term. Extending an amortization period reduces monthly mortgage payments but will mean that, over the long run, the total amount of interest paid will be much higher. Each prospective homeowner will have to determine what the “right” course of action is, based on their individual circumstances. Some help with that determination can be found on the website of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada at, where detailed information on the ins and outs of financing a home purchase (including online calculators) is provided.

More information on the budget measures is available on the Finance Canada 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.