Bank of Canada’s low rate plan could spur housing speculators - GulfToday

Bank of Canada’s low rate plan could spur housing speculators


Canadian home sales bounced back sharply in May and June following the weakest April on record. File/Reuters

The Bank of Canada (BoC) Governor Tiff Macklem’s reassurance that interest rates will remain low for at least two years could unleash a wave of speculative demand in the country’s hottest housing markets, realtors and mortgage brokers warned.

Canadian authorities are hoping a raft of stimulus measures and decade-low interest rates will spur credit growth and housing investment, helping offset the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic and oil prices hovering near multi-year lows.

“If you’ve got a mortgage, or you are considering to make a major purchase ... you can be confident that interest rates will be low for a long time,” Macklem told reporters after the central bank held rates steady on Wednesday.

That comment could boost housing demand in an economy with an unemployment rate close to the highest in decades and consumer insolvencies expected to spike in coming months, brokers said.

“In a country engaged in the most spectacular stimulus programme, the suggestion that everybody should run out and buy a house or a car is a bit much,” said Ron Butler of Toronto-based Butler Mortgage. His office saw record enquiries this week even before Macklem’s statement. Macklem’s comments also seemingly put the central bank at odds with the government’s mortgage agency, which last month tightened mortgage insurance rules for riskier borrowers to help curtail “excessive demand and unsustainable house price growth.”

Bank of Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Evan Siddall, chief executive of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Agency, tweeted that low rates and stricter underwriting can coexist.

“Surely you can reconcile the need for low rates to stimulate borrowing by people with strong credit characteristics with a policy that restrains excessive borrowing by those with weaker credit characteristics,” he said.

However, unprecedented levels of government stimulus have made borrowers’ true economic status less clear, Butler said.

Canadian home sales rebounded sharply in May and June following the weakest April on record, data from the Canadian Real Estate Association showed. In Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, home prices jumped nearly 12% in June from a year earlier.

Government support - worth about C$230 billion ($170 billion), according to the Department of Finance - and loan deferrals by banks have bolstered home prices, and pushed expected declines toward the end of this year or early 2021, said Nathan Janzen, senior economist at Royal Bank of Canada. “Then we will see the true health of household balance sheets,” he said.


Related articles