Alberta's housing market is not yet feeling the full weight of low oil prices as the number of newly insured mortgages rose in the province during the first quarter of the year, Canada's federal housing agency reported.
Alberta represented 23.8 per cent of all new mortgages insured by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in the first three months of this year, up from 23.4 per cent a year ago. The province also saw its share of new CMHC-insured mortgages for multiresidential construction, such as apartments and condos, double to 12 per cent. The value of newly insured mortgages in the province rose 2 per cent from last year, to $322,963.
CMHC also insured more new mortgages in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba. British Columbia saw the biggest increase, with its share of mortgage insurance activity rising to 12.6 per cent from 11.4 per cent at the same time last year. Mortgage insurance activity was down slightly in Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan.
Over all, CMHC insured 50,238 mortgages in the first quarter of the year, down from 55,386 a year earlier. The average insured mortgage rose 2 per cent from last year, to $238,630, while the arrears rate was essentially unchanged.
For the first time, the Crown corporation also released detailed data of its $460-billion mortgage-backed securities programs, which allow lenders to pool insured mortgages and sell them to investors, freeing up money to make new loans.
Federally regulated lenders, largely the major banks, issued $14-billion worth of mortgage securities through CMHC in the first quarter of the year, or 61 per cent of the total market, down from 69 per cent a year ago. Provincially regulated institutions, such as credit unions, issued nearly $2-billion in securities, up 55 per cent from a year ago. Securities issued by investment dealers, which are regulated by an industry association, rose 14 per cent to $3.2-billion.
Mortgage companies, such as First National Financial and MCAP Financial, which are not regulated by either the federal Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions or provincial authorities, issued $3.8-billion in mortgage securities through CMHC, up 33 per cent from a year ago.
CMHC is projecting that over the next five years its role will move away from primarily insuring mortgages toward guaranteeing pools of mortgage securities, which provide a cheap source of funds, particularly for smaller lenders.