Friday, March 9, 2018 / by Ruth Ballantyne
New mortgage rules aimed at curbing soaring household debt
Amortization periods will be reduced to 30 years from 35
Monday, January 17, 2011
By Julian Beltrame
Source: The Canadian Press
The federal government is making home ownership more difficult for Canadians on the margins of affordability, and moved to cut off some types of borrowing.
The new measures were necessary, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Monday, because a minority of Canadians are “borrowing to the max.”
It is the third time in three years that the finance minister has acted to restrain credit at a time of historically low interest rates.
The new rules reduce the amortization period to 30 years from 35, reducing the amount Canadians can borrow on their first home.
The measure, which comes into effect on March 18, will increase the monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage at four per cent by $105, according to the government.
As well, Ottawa has lowered the limit on how much money Canadians can borrow using their homes as equity to 85% of the value from 90%.
And the government will no longer insure lines of credit secured on homes as if they were mortgages.
The minister made clear there is not a debt crisis in Canada at the moment, even though household debt has reached a record 148 per cent of disposable income, a higher rate than currently exists in the United States.
But he said he was concerned that some Canadians were getting stretched and would feel the pinch when interest rates rise.
“We are responding to a situation that could develop,” he told a news conference, “and we want to avoid that.
“It’s obvious we could have gone farther. We have not touched down-payment requirements, for example. This is intentional. We are trying to strike the right balance so that we do not create any sort of shock in the market, or any sort of dramatic pressure in the market.”
Ironically, the measures open room for Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney to keep interest rates low for a longer period, given that the threat of runaway borrowing has been lessened.
The central bank next pronounces on interest rates Tuesday, but most analysts expect Carney to keep the policy rate at one per cent until at least late spring.
CIBC’s chief economist, Avery Shenfeld, said the impact overall on mortgage lending will be “marginal.”
“It’s the difference between somebody borrowing $200,000 and $180,000 or 190,000,” he said.
“More dramatic would have been to raise the down payment, which would have a larger impact on people’s ability to finance their first home.”
The Bank of Montreal’s Douglas Porter said the measures are the equivalent of raising interest rates by about half a percentage point, but more targeted.
“This is way a way of not affecting a lot of innocent bystanders, including the manufacturing and the tourism sector, by putting more upward pressure on the Canadian dollar,” he explained.
Flaherty said he moved on home-equity loans and lines of credit because some were not using the money to build equity on their residences, but on consumer spending.
“They are used to buy boats and cars and big-screen TVs, and that’s not the business mortgage insurance was designed for,” he said.
“Our measures will help improve the financial situation of households in Canada,” he added.
The tighter rules had been well flagged by both the federal government and the Bank of Canada, which have for months beat the drums on the risks of growing consumer debt.
In a speech earlier in the month, the bank’s deputy governor, Agathe Cote, noted home-equity loans as a share of overall household credit had risen by 170 per cent in the last decade.
The central bank has expressed concern that as Canadians pile on debt, not only do they expose themselves to coming higher interest rates or economic shocks, but they will no longer have sufficient disposable income to spend on other items, thereby potentially damaging the economy.
“If there were a sudden weakening in the Canadian housing sector, it could have sizable spillover effects on other areas of the economy, such as consumption,” Cote said.