CANADIAN HOMEOWNERSHIP COSTS EASE FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE QUARTER: RBC ECONOMICS

This is great news.

TORONTO, Feb. 24 /CNW/ – Canada’s housing affordability continued to improve in the fourth quarter of 2010, thanks in part to slight decreases in five-year fixed mortgage rates and minimal home price appreciation across the country, according to the latest Housing Trends and Affordability report released today by RBC Economics Research.

“Some of the stress that had been building in the housing market between 2009 and the first half of 2010 has been relieved, but tensions persist overall and the recent improvement in affordability is likely to be short-lived,” said Robert Hogue, senior economist, RBC. “We expect that the Bank of Canada will resume its rate hike campaign this spring and with borrowing costs set to climb further in the next two years, housing affordability will erode across the country. That said, we don’t expect this to derail the housing market because of rising household income and job creation from the sustained economic recovery.”

The RBC Housing Affordability Measure captures the proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a specified category of home. During the fourth quarter of 2010, measures at the national level fell between 0.4 and 0.8 percentage points across the housing types tracked by RBC (a decrease represents an improvement in affordability).

The detached bungalow benchmark measure eased by 0.8 of a percentage point to 39.9 per cent, the standard condominium measure declined by 0.4 of a percentage point to 27.6 per cent and the standard two-storey home decreased 0.4 percentage points to 46.0 per cent.

“We expect affordability measures will rise gradually in the next three years or so while monetary policy is readjusted, but will land softly thereafter once interest rates stabilize at higher levels,” added Hogue. “This pattern would be consistent with moderate yet sustained stress on Canada’s housing market. Overall, the era of rapid home price appreciation of the past 10 years has likely run its course and we believe that Canada has entered a period of very modest increases.”

A majority of provinces saw improvements in affordability in the fourth quarter, most notably in Alberta where falling home prices once again contributed to lower the bar for affording a home. Only the standard two-storey benchmark became less affordable in Ontario and Quebec, as did the standard condominium apartment in Quebec and the Atlantic region.

RBC’s Housing Affordability Measure for a detached bungalow in Canada’s largest cities is as follows: Vancouver 68.7 per cent (down 0.4 percentage points from the last quarter), Toronto 46.8 per cent (down 0.5 percentage points), Montreal 41.3 per cent (down 0.4 percentage points), Ottawa 38.7 per cent (up 0.5 percentage points), Calgary 34.9 per cent (down 3.1 percentage points) and Edmonton 31.0 per cent (down 2.4 percentage points).

The RBC Housing Affordability Measure, which has been compiled since 1985, is based on the costs of owning a detached bungalow, a reasonable property benchmark for the housing market in Canada. Alternative housing types are also presented including a standard two-storey home and a standard condominium. The higher the reading, the more costly it is to afford a home. For example, an affordability reading of 50 per cent means that homeownership costs, including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, take up 50 per cent of a typical household’s monthly pre-tax income.

Highlights from across Canada:

  • British Columbia: Buying a home in B.C. became slightly more affordable in the fourth quarter of 2010, due primarily to a small drop in mortgage rates. After experiencing some declines in the previous quarter, home prices rose modestly for most housing categories; condominium apartments bucked the trend, however, and depreciated slightly. Prices were supported by a tightening in market conditions with home resales picking up smartly following substantial cooling in the spring and summer that saw sellers lose their edge in setting property values. Demand and supply in the province are judged to be quite balanced at this point. RBC’s Affordability Measures fell between 0.8 and 1.0 percentage points in the fourth quarter which came on the heels of much more substantial drops (1.7 to 4.8 percentage points) in the third quarter. Notwithstanding these declines, affordability remains poor and will weigh on housing demand going forward.
  • Alberta: Alberta officially became the most affordable provincial market in the country in the fourth quarter, according to the RBC Measures which fell once again by 1.0 to 2.4 percentage points, extending their declines since late-2007. In addition to the lower mortgage rates, the further depreciation of home prices contributed to lowering homeownership costs. Property values were negatively affected by a substantial downswing in demand in the spring and early summer, which put buyers in the drivers’ seat. The significant improvement in affordability is near the end of its line, however, as demand has shown more vigour in recent months – alongside a provincial economy that is gaining more traction – and the market has become better balanced. RBC expects that this will stem price declines this year, thereby removing a potential offset to the negative effect of projected rise in interest rates on affordability.

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