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Special Reports

 

Canada's homeownership costs continue to climb despite slowing resale activity: RBC Economics

TORONTO, September 27, 2010 — Homeownership costs in the second quarter rose across Canada for the fourth consecutive time despite the recent slowing in resale market activity, according to the latest housing report released today by RBC Economics Research.

"Higher mortgage rates in tandem with a further appreciation in home prices boosted the monthly costs associated with carrying a mortgage on a typical home," said Robert Hogue, senior economist, RBC. "This extended the deteriorating trend in affordability since the middle of last year; however, affordability levels in Canada generally remain within a safe range."

The RBC Housing Affordability Measure captures the proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home of a certain category. During the second quarter of 2010, measures at the national level rose between 1.1 and 2.1 percentage points across the housing types tracked by RBC (the higher the measure, the more difficult it is to afford a home).

The detached bungalow benchmark measure rose by 1.9 of a percentage point to 42.9 per cent, the standard townhouse inched up by 1.1 of a percentage point to 34.1 per cent, the standard condominium climbed by 1.1 of a percentage point up to 29.3 per cent and the standard two-storey home experienced the largest increase, climbing 2.1 percentage points to 48.9 per cent.

The report notes that the slide in affordability over the past year has reversed approximately half of the considerable improvements in affordability witnessed in 2008 and early 2009.

RBC projects a temporary easing in housing affordability as a result of the recent decline in mortgage rates and the increasing evidence that home prices have started to stabilize in many markets. However, the Bank of Canada is expected to continue raising interest rates over the next 12 to 18 months which will become the dominant factor making homeownership less affordable once the near-term reprieve has passed.

"Current levels of affordability suggest some greater-than-usual stress weighing on Canadian homebuyers, but this does not represent an imminent threat to the market," noted Hogue. "While we expect rising interest rates to increase mortgage servicing costs, a leveling off in home prices and increasing household income will partly offset the negative effect."

Ontario and B.C. saw the most significant deterioration in affordability in the second quarter; however, some improvements in specific housing types occurred in Alberta (condominiums) and Saskatchewan (townhouses). All other provinces showed modest erosion, with the exception of two-storey homes in Manitoba where the rise in the RBC measure was quite substantial.

RBC's Housing Affordability Measure for a detached bungalow in Canada's largest cities is as follows: Vancouver 74.0 per cent (up 1.7 percentage points from the last quarter), Toronto 50.2 per cent (up 2.4 percentage points), Montreal 43.2 per cent (up 1.8 percentage points), Ottawa 41.2 per cent (up 3.6 percentage points), Calgary 39.2 per cent (up 0.9 percentage point) and Edmonton 34.7 (up 2.5 percentage points).

The RBC Housing Affordability Measure, which has been compiled since 1985, is based on the costs of owning a detached bungalow, a reasonable property benchmark for the housing market. Alternative housing types are also presented including a standard two-storey home, a standard townhouse and a standard condominium. The higher the reading, the more costly it is to afford a home. For example, an affordability reading of 50 per cent means that homeownership costs, including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, take up 50 per cent of a typical household's monthly pre-tax income.

Highlights from across Canada:

  • British Columbia: Homeownership in B.C. is testing household budgets with affordability deteriorating again in the second quarter despite downward pressure on home prices and market activity sinking since the start of this year. RBC's measures rose between 1.1 and 2.5 percentage points, representing some of the strongest increases among the provinces, and are near all-time highs for all housing categories. Very poor affordability is likely to restrain demand in the period ahead.

  • Alberta: Affordability measures have improved in Alberta since early 2008 as a result of lacklustre housing market conditions. The second quarter saw a mixed picture with prices easing slightly for condominiums but rising in all other categories. RBC notes that affordability measures are at or below their long-term averages, implying little downside risk to the market and boding well for a strengthening in housing demand once the provincial job market shows more substantial gains.

  • Saskatchewan: Rising mortgage rates during the quarter caused further deterioration in affordability for most housing types in the province. With the sole exception of townhouses edging lower, increases in affordability measures pushed levels further above long-term averages, indicating that some tensions may be building. RBC expects a strong rebound in the provincial economy this year and next which is likely to help ease such tensions.

  • Manitoba: Sellers kept a firm hand on pricing by reducing the supply of homes available for sale in the province, resulting in home prices continuing to appreciate, particularly for two-storey homes, which is translating into further deterioration of housing affordability. Homebuyers are feeling more pressure with affordability measures standing close to long-term averages.

  • Ontario: After setting new record highs this past winter, home resales in the province have since fallen precipitously due to a number of factors including the HST, changes in mortgage lending rules and the rush of first-time homebuyers to lock in low mortgage rates. Housing affordability in Ontario continues to reverse the considerable improvements achieved in late-2008 and early-2009 with measures increasing for a fourth consecutive time in the second quarter, representing some of the largest increases among the provinces.

  • Quebec: Quebec's record-breaking housing market rally proved to be unsustainable in the second quarter with resale activity settling to a pace comparable to levels witnessed in 2006-2007, which were considered to be fairly vigorous at the time. Affordability was hampered by home prices trending upward with RBC affordability measures now at or very close to the pre-downturn peaks and exceeding their long-term averages. Further increases in homeownership costs could have a more visibly adverse effect on housing demand.

  • Atlantic Canada: The East Coast housing market was not immune to the significant downturn in activity that swept across the country since spring with housing resales falling back across the region to the lows reached during late-2008 and early-2009. Cooling demand loosened up market conditions, restraining home price increases and limiting the rise in affordability measures which remain very close to long-term averages. Overall, housing affordability in Atlantic Canada remains attractive and signals little undue stress at this point.

The full RBC Housing Affordability report is available online, as of 8 a.m. E.D.T. today at www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/house.pdf.

- 30 -

For more information, please contact:
Robert Hogue, RBC Economics Research, 416-974-6192
Elyse Lalonde, Media Relations, RBC, 416-974-8810

 

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09/27/2010 06:45:11