Unsustainable home prices and record high household leverage render the Toronto and Vancouver housing markets increasingly vulnerable to a steep price correction, though key structural features will safeguard Canada from repeating the U.S. housing crisis, according to Fitch Ratings in a new report.
Home prices in Toronto and Vancouver are up 45% and 36%, respectively, since January 2015 through May of this year. Additionally, household debt to disposable income remains elevated at 167% in 1Q17, the highest amongst G7 sovereigns.
Mortgage-market reforms are also increasing the focus on a private label RMBS market in Canada. This will inevitably draw comparisons by some in the market to the U.S. RMBS market and the influential role it played in the U.S. housing crisis a decade ago. “However, Canada is unlikely to mirror the declines and fallout experienced during the U.S. housing crisis due to major differences in the housing and mortgage finance systems,” said Fitch Director Kate Lin.
“Canadian banks are subject to rigorous oversight and regulations requiring prudent mortgage lending and underwriting standards,” added Lin. “What’s more, credit quality for Canadian mortgage loans remains strong unlike the drift towards weak borrower and loan quality that we saw a decade ago in the U.S.” Further, nonprime credit quality originations in Canada are low, making up approximately 10% of volume compared to 50% in the U.S. during the peak. The Canadian government has also been proactive in managing the risk of the nation’s housing market by taking unprecedented steps to tighten credit and limit speculation.
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