Paul Lioukras, CPA, AMP
Housing affordability: First improvement in over 2 years
For the first time in 9 quarters, housing affordability improved in Canada. Not only was it the largest improvement in over 3 years, but it also ended the longest sequence of declining home affordability since the 1986-89 episode. Still, that is not to say that the median home is now affordable in Canada as the mortgage payment as a percentage of income (MPPI) registered at 64.6%, the second highest level since 1981. Feeding into the refinement, home prices declined for a second consecutive quarter and did so at the fastest pace since 1990. Although our 5-year benchmark mortgage rate used to calculate affordability rose by 17 bps in the fourth quarter, that was more than compensated for by falling prices and still rising incomes. The slight rise in rates nonetheless brought the benchmark rate to its highest level since 2008. Preliminary data for the first quarter of 2023 as well as our outlook for monetary policy in Canada suggest that we may be peaking in terms of mortgage interest rates. The current level for interest rates is restrictive and signals that home price declines are not over yet. Moreover, incoming data for the first quarter of 2023 confirms that prices have weakened while resale market data from CREA indicates that sales have significantly declined with listings concurrently increasing. Given our view for further declines in home price and decreasing mortgage rates, we expect affordability to improve in the coming quarters.
- Canadian housing affordability improved for the first time in 9 quarters in Q4'22. The mortgage payment on a representative home as a percentage of income (MPPI) declined 2.1 points, a pullback from the 4.0-point increase in Q3'22. Seasonally adjusted home prices decreased 3.9% in Q4'22 from Q3'22; the benchmark mortgage rate (5-year term) rose 17 bps, while median household income rose 1.0%.
- Affordability improved in 8 of the ten markets covered in Q4. On a sliding scale of markets from best improvement to deterioration: Victoria, Hamilton, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Winnipeg, Quebec, Edmonton, Calgary. This was the first time in 9 quarters that a majority of markets improved. Countrywide, affordability improved 0.6 pp in the condo portion vs. a 2.9 pp improvement in the non-condo segment.