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In Toronto, average resale home prices have surged more than 17 per cent since the same period last year, while prices for detached houses jumped an annualized 18 per cent to $1.21-million. (Ian Willms For The Globe and Mail)
In Toronto, average resale home prices have surged more than 17 per cent since the same period last year, while prices for detached houses jumped an annualized 18 per cent to $1.21-million. (Ian Willms For The Globe and Mail)

Ottawa has no more plans to cool hot housing markets, Morneau says Add to ...

Ottawa has no further plans to clamp down on Canada’s housing market, as potential home buyers grapple with the federal government’s stricter mortgage rules.

The latest reforms, which are set to go into effect on Monday, are designed to cool the country’s housing market and ensure homeowners do not take on too much debt.

They have left many first-time home buyers in a lurch, with some racing to buy property before the Oct. 17 rule change and others worried they will no longer qualify for a mortgage or be able to own a home.

“We don’t have any other measures that we are waiting to announce, but we will remain vigilant in watching the market to ensure that it is stable in the long term,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters after meeting with private sector economists in Toronto.

“We are looking out for [home buyers] by trying to make sure the housing market is stable,” he said.

The changes require buyers who make a down payment of less than 20 per cent to prove they can handle higher interest rates, which will cut the size of the mortgage that a borrower can get.

Ottawa also introduced plans to thwart real estate speculation, which the government believes is driving up property values in Vancouver and Toronto. The average selling price of a detached house in both cities is well above $1-million.

But Mr. Morneau said it was not clear the reforms would stabilize the market. “It’s impossible to say with absolute clarity what those impacts will be,” he said.

One economist agreed and said previous reforms were short lived.

“Low rates ride over all other attempts to rein in the market. Time will tell if that's the case again this time,” said Douglas Porter, chief economist with Bank of Montreal, who attended the morning meeting with Mr. Morneau.

Interest rates have remained low since the 2008-09 global financial crisis. Over that period, the federal government has steadily tightened mortgage lending requirements, including slashing the maximum amortization period for riskier mortgages from 40 years to 25 years.

Mr. Morneau said he expected buyers will continue to “ensure that they take on a mortgage that is appropriate for their situation.”

“If it contributes to them looking more carefully at whether the mortgage is the right size for them … that will be a positive for their family and positive for the economy,” he said.

The latest housing data showed home prices in Toronto up 2.2 per cent from August to September, but up only 0.2 per cent in Vancouver. Home sales in the western city are down by a third since the British Columbia government slapped a 15 per cent tax on foreign real estate buyers in August.

There was little discussion about housing at Mr. Morneau’s meeting with economists, according to participants.

Mr. Morneau was in Toronto to gather information ahead of his government’s fall economic and fiscal update, expected to be released later this year. Mr. Morneau would not comment directly on a Toronto-Dominion bank report that forecast a bigger budget shortfall except to say: “We have seen a more challenging global environment.”

TD expects the deficit to reach $34-billion this fiscal year, which is about $5-billion higher than what Ottawa estimated in its March budget.

Mr. Morneau said some events such as the Fort McMurray wildfires occurred after the budget was unveiled and said those factors would influence government plans.

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