'Hello, housing bubble': Economist on Ottawa's federal budget
Looking to cash in on Justin Trudeau’s latest budget? Call a Montreal realtor.
The measures include help for first-time homebuyers that would see the country’s housing agency take up to a 10 per cent stake in a newly built home, or up to 5 per cent in an existing one.
The catch? There’s a cap on who can qualify -- a buyer’s insured mortgage and the federal aid combined can’t exceed $480,000, and would often be capped at a lower figure, based on income. That cap could price out much of the Toronto and Vancouver markets. But it could be a big change for more modestly priced markets, including Montreal, Canada’s second-most-populous city.
“The solution to a housing bubble isn’t to add more demand,” said Frances Donald, head of macroeconomic strategy with Manulife Asset Management. “I’d expect that, all else equal, these measures will push up house prices in Canada’s currently affordable markets like Montreal and Ottawa while doing little to support those looking for access to Toronto or Vancouver.”
Home prices rose 6.2 per cent in Montreal in February from a year earlier, the Canadian Real Estate Association said last week. The benchmark price of a home in greater Montreal was $353,400 versus $767,800 in greater Toronto and over $1 million in greater Vancouver.
“These measures are not gamechangers, but they will have a modest impact on markets,” Toronto-Dominion Bank economists Beata Caranci and Brian DePratto wrote in a research note, adding that average prices in Toronto and Vancouver are well above the program’s cap. “Early analysis suggests that sales could be pushed up by 2 per cent to 5 per cent through end-2020, with prices rising by a similar amount given an unchanged supply path in the near-term.”
Finance Minister Bill Morneau, speaking Wednesday in Toronto, said the country has about 500,000 home sales annually, including 100,000 new buyers. The measures might add between 20,000 and 40,000 new buyers to the mix, “without actually changing the overall dynamics” of the market, he said.