Post Category: Research
June 16, 2020
Home affordability improved slightly in Q1 2020

Housing affordability in Canada’s large urban centres improved in the first quarter of 2020. Although mortgage interest rates remained essentially unchanged from Q4 to 2019, an increase in income was able to offset the rise of home prices for the urban composite. The latter registered a second consecutive 1.5% gain in prices in the quarter. But this is now old news as the economy has entered a recession which could significantly shake the Canadian housing market and therefore affordability. Interest rates are unlikely to provide much relief for homebuyers as they have in previous economic crisis’. Indeed, interest rates were already very low before the crisis, and give zero lower bound for central banks, they have very little room to move lower. The 5-year mortgage rate has declined only 17 basis points from the beginning of the present crisis, which is very little compared to the declines of other recessions. Moreover, incomes should face some headwinds as we expect the unemployment rate to hover near 9% over the coming year with production capacity being destroyed due to the current lockdown. In such a context, we foresee a marked drop in home prices, about 10% nationally, sharper than in any of the country’s last three recessions. Of course, this scenario assumes that the CMHC refrains from raising the minimum down payment as suggested on May 15th. In our vie, such a policy in the context of a recession would amplify the risk of home-price deflation by excluding potential homebuyers.

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