B.C. tears down 1st time homebuyer loan program, after just 3,000 people signed up

The province says just 3,000 people took advantage of a loan program designed to help first-time homebuyers get into the market. Getty Images

Say goodbye to B.C.’s loan program for first-time homebuyers.

The province announced in the 2018 budget that the $700-million program, which was launched by the previous BC Liberal government, was being axed — to be replaced with a new program to promote the construction of affordable housing.

The NDP government is now reminding would-be applicants of the expiry date on the loan program: anyone looking to take advantage of it must apply before March 31.

Under the Home Owner Mortgage and Equity (HOME) Partnership program, first-time homebuyers were able to take advantage of a government loan matching up to five per cent of the purchase price of homes with a maximum value of $750,000.

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That maximum loan of $37,500 was also interest free for the first five years.

WATCH: Interest free loans to first time home buyers in B.C.

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Interest free loans to first time home buyers in B.C.

The program had sparked concerns that it would saddle first-time homebuyers with what amounted to a second mortgage, along with fears that it would add fuel to Metro Vancouver’s already red hot condo market.

But very few people actually took the province up on the offer. B.C. had anticipated handing out about 42,000 of the loans over three years, but in the year since it was implemented, just 3,000 people have signed up, according to the province.

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The NDP government said it will redirect the money earmarked for the HOME program to a new umbrella agency called the HousingHub.

READ MORE: B.C. Premier announces new initiative to support first-time homebuyers

The new office, a part of BC Housing, has a mandate to “aggressively partner” with non-profits, private developers and other levels of government to “find and use or re-use available land to construct and/or redevelop outdated existing housing developments,” according to the agency.

That housing is to be targeted at households with average incomes between $50,000 and $100,000, it said.

The HousingHub’s website lists a number of “major projects” underway, many of which began under the previous government, such as the Little Mountain project in Vancouver and Cedar Place in Burnaby.

BC Housing said the HousingHub will also establish a new affordable owner-purchased housing program, details of which have not yet been released.

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