How Can You Get Down Payment Assistance?

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What You Should Know

  • Down payment assistance programs are typically shared equity mortgages where the lender will share in the upside and downside of your property.
  • These programs are offered by all governmental levels (federal, provincial, and municipal) along with some private lenders.
  • Successful applicants receive a loan worth 5-15% of the property value to help with the down payment.
  • Typically, the loan must be repaid as a percentage of current property value upon selling the property or after a certain period of time.
  • Occasionally, the loan can be revoked if the owner lives in the house long enough.

Saving up for a house can be a significant challenge. Between high student debt, challenging credit score requirements, and the ballooning cost of living, many Canadians have difficulty setting aside money to afford a house.

Fortunately, lenders recognize this problem and have been offering down payment assistance programs. These programs help Canadians afford their first down payment. They are typically shared equity mortgages which means the lenders will share the upside and downside of your property. There's usually a waiting list for these programs, and successful applicants will receive 5-15% of the property value to use as a down payment. The catch is that the percentage generally must be paid back after 20 years or when the property is sold. Many homebuyers can benefit from these helpful programs if they meet specific requirements.

Down Payment Assistance Infographic

Who qualifies for down payment assistance?

Down payment assistance programs typically have strict qualifications. They are designed to help low to moderate-income families afford a house. There are strict qualifications. In general, to qualify for this program, you must;

  • Have a low to moderate household income (typically less than $100 000)
  • Buy a house below a maximum price (normally less than $500 000)
  • Pre-qualify for a mortgage
  • Be a legal resident of Canada
  • Intend to use the house as a primary residence
  • Usually only for first-time homebuyers

However, each municipality has different requirements to suit their local needs better. These requirements and programs are constantly changing, too, so it's best to review the links provided to double-check.

How do you get down payment assistance?

If you qualify for down payment assistance, the next step is to research the options available to you. Below is a list of the programs offered federally and by municipalities in some provinces. As mentioned above, always double-check to ensure nothing has changed with the program.

Federal down payment assistance programs

First-Time Home Buyers Incentive (FTHBI)
First-Time Home Buyers Incentive

The First-Time Home Buyers Incentive is a shared equity mortgage that makes it easier to buy a home while lowering monthly mortgage payments. It allows you to borrow up to 10% of the purchase price to use as a down payment. However, you must pay back the same percentage of property value when you sell or after 25 years. As the name suggests, this program is only meant for first-time home buyers.

The government shares the upside and downside of your property value. Imagine you buy a property for $400,000 with a 10% loan from the FTHBI. If you sell the property after ten years for $500,000, you owe the government 10% of the property value. This would translate to $50,000 (500,000 * 10%). Although you save on mortgage interest initially, you will need to pay more down the road.

Ontario down payment assistance programs

Kitchener (Region of Waterloo)

There has been no better time to buy a house in Kitchener. The municipal government is lending 5% of the property value to first-time home buyers. The benefit is those who live in their house for more than 20 years will not need to pay back the loan. However, if you sell before 20 years, you must pay back 5% of the housing value (same concept as FTHBI).

To qualify, you must have lived in Waterloo for the past 12 months and meet some other criteria that you can find here.

Barrie (Simcoe County)

Simcoe County is willing to lend up to 10% of the property value to help qualifying homebuyers purchase a property. As the case with Kitchener, applicants must pay back the same percentage of property value if they sell their property before 20 years. However, if the property remains the primary residence for over 20 years, there is no need to repay the loan. The house must be less than $462,645, and applicants must have a household income at or below $75,100. You can find more information about the program here.

Hamilton

Applications are no longer being accepted for this program.

Quebec down payment assistance programs

Montreal

Accès Condos has developed more than 3,600 low-cost units throughout the city of Montreal. Buyers must make a minimum $1,000 deposit and receive a 10% premium credit applied to the down payment for an approved development.

British Columbia down payment assistance programs

On March 31, 2018, the province of B.C. discontinued its Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership program. At the moment, it has no widespread down payment assistance programs available.

Alberta down payment assistance programs

Calgary
City Sklyine of Calgary, Alberta

The Attainable Homes Program allows successful applicants only to contribute $2000 towards the downpayment of their homes. However, if the homeowner sells their home, the value growth is split between the owner and the program. Applicants must also choose from a preselected list of properties. The longer the homeowner lives in the house, the less percentage they have to split with the program.

Saskatchewan down payment assistance programs

Saskatoon

The Mortgage Flexibilities Support Program offers qualifying home buyers a 5% down payment grant to purchase a house. Applicants must have an income of less than $69,975 per person and $74,640 per couple. They must also have a maximum net worth of less than $25,000. Successful applicants must apply the grant to a preselected pool of properties.

Manitoba down payment assistance programs

Selected Rural Communities

The Rural Homeownership Program is only available to renters who live in a home owned by Manitoba Housing in specific rural communities or those who want to buy a vacant house owned by Manitoba Housing. Applicants must meet a maximum household income requirement of 63,450- $84,600 depending on if the household has children.

The program consists of a loan worth 10% of the purchase price forgiven on a pro-rata basis over five years and another 15% forgivable loan after 15 years of continuous ownership and occupancy.

New Brunswick down payment assistance programs

Flag of New Brunswick

The Home Ownership Program is a government-sponsored program that provides financing to first-time homebuyers. A repayable loan worth up to 40% of the purchase price of an existing house or $75,000 for new builds is offered as part of this initiative. It is open to individuals with household incomes below $40,000. Unlike the previous programs, this is not a shared equity mortgage. The loan must be repaid, and the interest rate caps out at the provincial borrowing rate.

Newfoundland & Labrador down payment assistance programs

The Home Purchase Program was active in 2018/19 but is no longer available.

Nova Scotia down payment assistance programs

The Down Payment Assitance Program (DPAP) assists Nova Scotians with modest incomes in purchasing their first home. Participants who meet the income and debt criteria may receive an interest-free repayable loan of up to 5% of the price of a home. Applicants must have lived in Nova Scotia for the past 12 months, have a maximum household income of $75,000, and purchase a house no more than 200,000-$300,000. This is not a shared equity mortgage, so the loans must be repaid in 10 years.

PEI down payment assistance programs

PEI's Down Payment Assistance Program (DPAP) helps qualified residents with modest incomes to purchase their first home. DPAP provides a repayable loan of up to 5% of the purchase price of a new or existing home to a maximum cost of $15,000.

This is not a shared equity mortgage but is also not a conventional mortgage loan. Mortgage payments go directly to the principal. If the applicant defaults, they must pay the remaining balance and accrued interest calculated at 5% per annum. Additionally, the purchase price of the home must be no more than $300,000.

The Bottom Line

Down payment assistance is a program that helps you afford the down payment of your home purchase. The shared equity model decreases your monthly mortgage payments but can increase the amount you pay when you sell your house. It's great to review these programs to find the one that works best for you.

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