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Mortgage calculator (Karen Roach/iStockphoto)
Mortgage calculator (Karen Roach/iStockphoto)

Debt on home equity lines of credit: $220-billion Add to ...

Canadian homeowners owe $220-billion on their home equity lines of credit, according to a study on the composition of the country's mortgage market, with most of the money going toward renovations and investments.

The Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals found in its spring survey that 5.7 million Canadians now have a mortgage, owing a collective $860-billion. In the last year, about 200,000 people managed to pay off their housing debt completely.

While the association has tracked mortgage debt for years, it is the first time it has broken out data on home equity lines of credit, which are loans taken out against the value of a home. The study found 15 per cent of mortgage holders took out equity in their home in the past year, with the average amount estimated at $30,000. The $26-billion was used for renovations ($9.4-billion), investing ($9.4-billion), debt consolidation ($5-billion) and the rest for "purchases and other purposes."

The government made it more difficult for Canadians to access the equity in their homes in January, as part of a package of mortgage changes meant to cool down a hot housing market, saying it would no longer provide insurance on personal credit lines secured by homes.

The loans are still available, but the interest costs could move higher as banks take on greater risk.

The report also showed that Canadians are making larger down payments when buying a new home - with the average amount paid up front at 30 per cent, up from 26 per cent two years earlier.

And as policy makers worry whether homeowners will find themselves in trouble as interest rates rise, the study found that 63 per cent have fixed-rate mortgages that won't change until their term expires. Thirty per cent have variable rates, which are more susceptible to interest rate fluctuations.

Meanwhile, only 22 per cent of all mortgage holders have amortization periods longer than 25 years. The government also clamped down on 35-year amortization periods in January, making 30-years the longest amortization period allowed.

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