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Housing and the Big, Bad, Budget
A lot has been said about Thursday's budget announcement. From Flaherty's shoe selection to a vague job-training program, many Canadian's were left slightly confused following the much-anticipated announcement. With that being said, Flaherty's eighth (and potentially final) budget announcement could have been worse, especially for the mortgage industry. Thursday's budget included a tightening of controls on mortgage lending once again, as well as another promise to further limit lender access to bulk mortgage insurance. While this will inconvenience some lenders, it's actually good news for taxpayers. The announcement is just the latest in a long line of moves from the Finance Department that touch on concerns over the housing market. As Canadian's continue to sink themselves deeper into household debt, Flaherty once again verbalized his mounting anxiety over interest rates. “Our concern, my concern for a number of years, is with very low interest rates that people can afford their mortgages when interest rates go up,” Flaherty told reporters while purchasing is budget-day shoes, a long-running Canadian tradition, at a Roots factory in Toronto on Wednesday. The Housing Market Under a MicroscopeFlaherty has made a career out of meddling in the in the mortgage market, influencing a number of policy changes in the past decade. And while home sales have slowed significantly and prices are beginning to drop in some of the critical markets since Ottawa's intervention last summer, Flaherty still feels that more needs to be done to protect consumers from themselves. As the economy slowly begins to right itself and interest rates eventually begin to rise, economists like Flaherty are worried that current mortgage holders won't be able to meet their increased mortgage payments. And since Ottawa backstops mortgage insurance, the Canadian taxpayer would be on the hook to cover this exposure. The Bad Side of Bulk Mortgage InsuranceMortgage insurance, which is backed up by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is intended to help consumers with low down payments enter the housing market more easily. Unfortunately, over time, it's also become a tool for banks to manage their risk. Banks' appetite for bulk mortgage insurance (also referred to as portfolio insurance) has continue to grow over the years. In fact, it's one of the main factors behind the government-owned CMHC's growing balance sheet. You see, whenever a new homeowner purchases a house without the mandatory 20 percent down, the mortgage needs to be insured to protect the lender. However, banks also offer this extended coverage to insure large swaths, or portfolios, of mortgages that don't necessarily need the protection. The budget states that, “With the financial crisis well behind us, the government is amending the rules for portfolio insurance to increase market discipline in residential lending and reduce taxpayer exposure to the housing sector.” New RulesFallout from the budget will include new rules that will gradually limit the sale of insurance on low loan-to-value mortgages (i.e. mortgages where the consumer ponies up a higher down payment) to those that are being used in Ottawa's securitization program through the CMHC. This will prevent banks from insuring their portfolio mortgage products in order to reduce their capital requirements. Flaherty's changes will also enable Ottawa to stop the use of any taxpayer-backed insured mortgages (even the high ratio ones)as collateral in securities that are not sponsored by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This will protect Ottawa's potential exposure. Flaherty and the Department of Finance noted that they intend to further consult with the finance industry before implementing this rules later in the year. In the meantime, financial institutions will continue to have access to a broad array of financing options. As always, we'll follow this story as it unfolds right here on the Mortgage Talk Canada Blog.
Employment continues to rebound in July
From February to April, 5.5 million Canadian workers were affected by the COVID-19 economic shutdown. This included a drop in employment of 3.0 million and a COVID-related increase in absences from work of 2.5 million.
Employment rose by 419,000 (+2.4%) in July, compared with 953,000 (+5.8%) in June. Combined with gains of 290,000 in May, this brought employment to within 1.3 million (-7.0%) of its pre-COVID February level.
The number of Canadians who were employed but worked less than half their usual hours for reasons likely related to COVID-19 dropped by 412,000 (-18.8%) in July. Combined with declines recorded in May and June, this left COVID-related absences from work at just under 1 million (+972,000; +120.3%) above February levels.
By the week of July 12 to July 18, the total number of affected workers stood at 2.3 million, a reduction since April of 58.0%.
Canadian home sales and new listings up again in June
Home sales recorded over Canadian MLS Systems in June 2020 rebounded by a further 63%, returning them to normal levels for the month some 150% above where they were in April.
Transactions were once again up on a m-o-m basis across the country. Among Canadas largest markets, sales rose 83.8% in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 75.1% in Montreal, 60.3% in Greater Vancouver, 99.7% in the Fraser Valley, 54.9% in Calgary, 59% in Edmonton, 22.5% in Winnipeg, 34.8% in Hamilton-Burlington, 67.9% in London and St. Thomas, 55.6% in Ottawa and 43.6% in Quebec City.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity posted a 15.2% y-o-y gain in June.
REALTORS across Canada are increasingly seeing business pick back up, stated Costa Poulopoulos, Chair of CREA. With sellers and buyers returning to the market, we continue to make sure clients stay safe by complying with government and health officials directives and advice, increasingly using technology to list and show properties virtually while providing secure methods to complete required forms and contracts. As always, but maybe now more than ever, REALTORS remain the best source for information and guidance when negotiating the sale or purchase of a home, continued Poulopoulos.