Category Archives: Canada

Disappearing ghost towns in the media

This is odd.  The Globe and Mail published an article about the condo boom titled “How condo boom threatens a ghost city phenomenon” and included the following alarming section:

“CMHC estimates that roughly 25 per cent of condominiums in the Greater Toronto Area are sold but sitting vacant — shades of Miami at the height of its collapsed condo bubble in 2007. Other analysts say the 25 per cent figure may be too low.

“This is the ghost city phenomenon,” Mr. Holt said.

Condo developers in Eastern cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, appear to be rushing to sell and build units before interest rates start to climb, and the market crashes.”

But if you visit that link you’ll no longer find that text and the headline has been changed to “Housing starts shoot higher on back of condo boom” (although as of this writing the URL still shows the original title).  Why the dramatic change in tone?

CMHC gets a bit weird

Here’s a couple of recent stories about Canada’s Housing Agency:  First off there’s the news that the government seems to be trying to figure out how to distance themselves from it, maybe by selling it off:

Anyone trying to understand the concern over a potential housing bubble in Canada need look no further than the debate among government officials over whether to exit the mortgage insurance business.

The board of Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. considered selling the home loan insurer last year, according to former Chairman Dino Chiesa, who’s term ended in March. CMHC, set up in 1946 to promote home ownership, also studied the sale of Australia’s government-owned insurer and presented the findings to the Bank of Canada, according to documents released to Bloomberg News under Canada’s Access to Information Act.

Here’s the full article.

But of course the CMHC is also saying they see ‘no sign of a market bubble’.

While the report did not make specific reference to the government’s changes in the oversight of CMHC, it did offer what could be characterized an strong validation of its role and operations.

“CMHC follows prudential regulations as set out by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, with CMHC maintaining more than twice the minimum capital required by OSFI,” it said. “As a result, CMHC is well positioned to weather possible severe economic scenarios.”

The report also highlighted the important role CMHC plays in the housing market, which it said accounted for 20%, or $346-billion, of Canada’s gross domestic product last year. It pointed out the agency “manages its mortgage loan insurance and securitization guarantee operations using sound business practices that ensure commercial viability without having to rely on the government of Canada for support.”

Here’s that article.

 

The ‘secret’ Canadian bank bailout

You’ve probably noticed lots of eye rolling around here anytime someone mentions how Canadian banks are so different from US banks.  The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is now pointing out in a report that Canadian banks actually received a multibillion dollar bailout from October 2008 to July 2010.  The government is being accused of offering ‘liquidity support’ that is much higher than originally reported.

All told, the study counts $114 billion worth of guarantees and financial aid for Canada’s big banks from government agencies such as the Bank of Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

MacDonald combed through financial reports from government institutions as well as quarterly reports from the banks themselves.

He says the government has been obfuscating the true cost of supporting the banks.

“A healthy and resilient banking sector cannot operate under a shroud of secrecy. Details of the massive taxpayer support Canadian banks received should be released in the name of transparency and accountability,” MacDonald said.

They also point out that the heads of Canada’s big banks received large raises during the time this ‘liquidity support’ was offered.

Bank offers you should not accept

Many Franks pointed out this article in the Financial Post, which offers a flipside view to yesterdays “do whatever it takes to scrape up 5%” article.

It has a real simple message: Banks exist to make money.  That includes making offers that sound good but may not be in your best interest.

While many people want to blame the banks or the government for Canadas alarming consumer debt problem, theres only one person who is truly to blame: the consumer.  Sign yourself up for a suckers deal and you have only yourself to blame.

While some bank chief executives have put it on themselves to tighten their own lending rules, others continue to look to Ottawa to take the lead.

In the interim, all you have to do is walk into a branch, grab some pamphlets and you will see an array of offers that could get you into even more debt trouble.

One of my favourites is the cash-back mortgage. It is offered to a varying degree by most of the major banks, so there is no point in picking on any one institution.

Here’s the offer: Take out a mortgage for more than five years and get 5% of the value of the mortgage up front to a maximum of $25,000. In other words, get a $500,000 loan and immediately get $25,000 back. “It’s great for first-time buyers,” we’re told.

Really? If the loan is at the posted rate of 5.44%, which it usually is for these types of mortgages, you could easily land into more debt trouble long term.

Another deal tries to lure me over to a new bank with an offer of 2% cash up front, or up to $4,000 on $200,000 if I switch to the financial institution. But what about the costs to break my existing mortgage, and is there really any point in switching products to get that cash right away if I’m going to end up with a higher rate and a less-flexible mortgage?

“Somebody is going to pay for it,” says Kelvin Mangaroo, president of RateSupermarket.ca, about the cost of the promises. “Sometimes there is more fine print than the actual offer.”

Check out full article here.

What do you think, do we need more consumer protection to protect consumers from themselves?