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Boost for new housing, seniors

VICTORIA – Finance Minister Kevin Falcon found money in his restraint budget Tuesday to boost home building and renovations.

First-time buyers are eligible for up to $10,000, but only if they buy a new home. That follows a harmonized sales tax break announced last week, which raises the threshold for an HST rebate on new homes from $525,000 to $850,000. The HST rebate was also extended to the purchase of new vacation homes, offered until the HST reverts to the old provincial sales tax in March, 2013.

Falcon also announced a new seniors' home renovation tax credit offers up to $1,000 for upgrades and modifications that allow seniors to remain in their homes.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair blasted the housing bonus, which he said goes mainly to wealthy people who can afford new homes, while government services for seniors, forestry and other needs can't keep up.

"Right now we have the smallest public sector in the country, so obviously we're struggling to meet those services," Sinclair said.

"The message of this budget is, if you're the one per cent, we're going to take care of you, we're going to make sure you're well off. And by the way, if you want to buy your second vacation home in Whistler, we're going to give you a tax deduction for that up to 10 grand."

NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston described the new housing bonus as a "boutique program" that won't help very many people. Most first-time buyers are only able to afford a second-hand condo or house, he said.

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