The federal Conservative government is expected on Monday to introduce new rules aimed at toughening up mortgage lending.
In February of 2010, Mr. Flaherty moved to toughen up the mortgage rules amid worries that Canada was in the midst of a housing market bubble. The reforms, since introduced, compelled borrowers to meet standards for a five-year fixed-rate mortgage, even if the buyer wanted a shorter-term, variable rate loan; reduced the amount Canadian can borrow against their home, to 90% of the property value from 95%; and require purchasers of rental properties to issue a 20% down payment as opposed to 5%. The moves played a role, observers say, in slowing down real estate activity.
In today’s announcement The key change Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is likely to unveil is a cut in the maximum amortization period, to 30 years from 35 years. Mortgages with amortization periods longer than 30 years will no longer qualify for government-backed mortgage insurance, which is required for buyers with less than a 20% down payment on a home.
Government sources also told the National Post Mr. Flaherty is expected to lower the maximum amount Canadians can borrow against the value of their homes, to 85% from 90%, and remove federal government backing of home equity lines of credit, or so-called HELOCs.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, add the minimum down payment, at 5%, will remain as is. Further, there will not unveil any plan to target condominium purchases by requiring monthly condo fees be added to the list of expenses that is measured against income to decide whether a buyer can afford a mortgage.
The Bank of Canada recently warned debt levels are growing faster than income, and the risk posed by consumer indebtedness to the domestic economy would continue to escalate without a “significant change” in how consumers borrow and banks lend.
The new changes, though, reduce even further the amount people can borrow against their homes, to 85%. Also, the changes target HELOCs, which Mr. Flaherty cited as a source of concern in a recent interview. Home-equity lines of credit surged 170% over the past decade, or twice the rate of mortgage growth, and now represent 12% of overall household debt. With the new rules, Ottawa will no longer back the HELOC, as it was doing up until now through mortgage insurance. Instead, sources say, the government will signal that the banks are on the hook for any default linked to a HELOC it issued.
While the federal government looks to curb borrowing, economists say the Bank of Canada may have to follow by raising its key interest rate sooner rather than later. The central bank issues its latest rate statement on Tuesday and it is expected to hold its benchmark rate at its present 1% level as signs indicate the economy may be benefiting from renewed business and consumer confidence in the United States.
** Provided By: Dominion Lending Centres