Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation CEO Evan Siddall wants to reassure homeowners and landlords about the safety net being put in place for anyone who needs help paying their mortgage during the COVID-19 outbreak. But he’s also warning Canadians who might attempt to abuse the system.
“Anybody who needs help should be eligible. If you can tell your bank the reasons why you need help, it’s as simple as that, you will get help,” Siddall said in an interview Monday.
“What we don’t need right now are people, who are going to be okay, jamming up phone lines to banks because they’re crowding other people that are in true need.”
Policymakers and banks have implemented new rules allowing homeowners to defer mortgage payments for at least six months due to financial hardship brought on by the novel coronavirus. But while governments, federal agencies and major financial institutions extend help, Siddall said he needs Canadians who are in good financial standing to do their part as well.
“We have to implement a program that people can take comfort in. People who should not apply are obviously people who can pay their bills – whether it’s rent, mortgages, their utility bills - to do that because our economy needs your help right now,“ he said.
CMHC’s aid measures also extend to landlords.
“We actually have to give help to landlords so there’s no compulsion to evict. A number of provinces have enacted eviction prohibitions – it’s going to be hard to evict anybody right now,” he said.
“But we’re giving support to all the multi-unit insurance clients at CMHC and that’s a huge amount of the marketplace – people who have constructed or bought multi-unit buildings and have tenants, we’re extending the same or similar support to them in return for a no-evictions agreement.”
The latest housing starts data from CMHC shows there was a slight decline in February from January, driven mainly by the multi-unit category and Siddall said he expects construction will slow down further as the outbreak drags on, but added the agency stands ready to introduce more measures as they become needed.
“There is more to come and we have to watch as this unfolds because timelines are tricky to guess,” he said. “We have the best banking system in the world, that’s not my opinion, that’s others’."
"I can tell you we’re functioning very, very well with the banks. I just got off a call with some senior officials, the minister of finance and some of the bank CEOs. We’re talking regularly to make sure the system is safe.”