The new housing program to help first-time buyers in British Columbia is not a risk to already-high home prices, the province’s housing minister insists.

Rich Coleman says that even if 10,000 used the B.C. Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership announced in December, it’s not a large enough impact to drive higher prices.

The program gives first-time buyers the opportunity to receive a loan from the province to match their own savings for a downpayment, effectively accelerating their ability to buy a home.

The loan is available on up to 5 per cent of the purchase price for homes up to $750,000 and must be paid down over 25 years but no payments are required in the first 5 years, which are also interest free.

Coleman told the Canadian Press that within hours of the program’s launch, there were applicants. “This opportunity will change a number of lives,” he said.

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