New option would allow graduate retention grant to be used for home purchase
Saskatchewan’s premier Brad Wall announced on March 14 a plan to help the province’s young people make down payments on their first homes, should he be re-elected.
The new First Home Plan will come in the form of an option on the existing graduate retention program, which currently offers tax credits to Saskatchewan graduates as long as they remain residents of the province. If those graduates are interested in buying a home in Saskatchewan, this new option will allow them to use their credits towards the down payment instead.
Wall announced the program in response to feedback from young residents, which indicated that they were ready to begin mortgage payments, but had difficulties saving up enough for a down payment.
“Our government introduced the Saskatchewan Advantage scholarship to help students with the cost of their tuition. We introduced the graduate retention program, which is effectively a tax break for post-secondary grads who choose to stay and work in Saskatchewan. And now, we will introduce this new option on the graduate retention program to allow you to use your credits to buy your first home.”
If it is implemented, adding the first home option to the existing graduate retention program is expected to cost $900,000 next year, increasing to $1.8 million, $2.7 million, and $3.6 million in subsequent years.
“Our Graduate Retention Program has been a huge success,” said Wall. “Now we’re going to make a great program even better.”
Saskatchewan’s graduate retention program changed format last year. Students who used to receive cheques now instead get their promised money in the form of tax credits, drawing some criticism. In addition, Saskatchewan’s program has been unfavourably compared to Ontario’s new grant system for lower-income students, which essentially provides tuition rebates up front instead of tax credits paid over ten years, depending on residency.
Wall is not the only candidate hoping to ease the financial burden on the province’s young people. Cam Broten and the provincial NDP have promised to reduce utilities costs to residents making less than $175,000, and to make university “more affordable and accessible.” The Liberal Party is also courting the student vote, promising to stabilize funding to post-secondary institutions to end rising tuition costs, and to reduce interest rates on student loans from the government.
The provincial election will be held on April 4, with advance polling beginning March 29. Under Saskatchewan voter laws, students who have moved to the province to study are immediately eligible to vote, and may register at the address they moved from, or their current address.