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.
So if there’s a housing bubble in Canada who is to blame? Some people blame foreign buyers, some people blame local buyers. Some people think sellers are to blame and some people think the government is to blame. From the National Post:
Many analysts are becoming increasingly concerned that some cities — notably Toronto, Vancouver and possibly Calgary — are in the midst of their own U.S.-style housing bubble. A document written by the country’s financial regulator and obtained earlier this year through an access to information request, expresses concern over the “emerging risk” of Canadian loans that “have some similarities to non-prime loans in the U.S. retail lending market.” Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney continued tosound the alarm as well last week over the growing level of household debt, while maintaining the overnight lending rate at a near-record low level of 1%.
The question remains as to why prices in Toronto and Vancouver — where the economy is stagnant — are rising so fast, and not in cities like Edmonton and Saskatoon — where the economy, and population, is booming.
Read the rest of the article here.
Over at the The Star, our mayor has helped to write an opinion piece asking that the CMHC provide more loans for rental housing construction:
For most of us, housing is our biggest expense. One out of every five dollars we earn goes to build, buy, rent and run our homes. Facing high home prices, large personal debts, and an uncertain economy, fewer Canadians can buy a new home today than in the past, and they are choosing to rent instead.
Unfortunately, in many cities finding an affordable place to rent is nearly impossible. The most immediate problem is supply. Vacancy rates under 3 per cent push rents up. In Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, it’s 1.4 per cent.
Vacancy rates this low force our young people to move out of the city, threaten seniors on fixed incomes, and have a negative impact on local businesses.
That’s why this spring’s federal budget must put Canada’s rental housing market on solid ground, by pursuing low-cost, high-leverage policies that get jobs on the ground and build housing Canadians can afford.
It’s like magic, creating jobs and homes. What could go wrong with a ‘low-cost, high-leverage’ policy like that?