Higher down payments could be on horizon: CMHC

  11/26/2016 |   SHARE
Posted in Home Buyers by Michael Antczak| Back to Main Blog Page

First-time Home Buyers

The head of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has opened the door to the possibility of increasing the minimum down payment needed to buy a house, though a change is not currently on the table.

Evan Siddall, chief executive of CMHC, which advises Ottawa on housing, told an audience at the Bank of England Friday that raising the down payment for homeowners with loans backed by federal mortgage insurance, is an idea worth looking at.

Evan Siddall, chief executive of CMHC, which advises Ottawa on housing, told an audience at the Bank of England Friday that raising the down payment for homeowners with loans backed by federal mortgage insurance, is an idea worth looking at.

Ottawa moved in December, 2015 to increase the minimum down payment to 10 per cent on contributions on the portion of house prices above $500,000. The maximum value for buying a home backed by government insurance is now $1 million so the downpayment at that much house would work out to 7.5 per cent today.

“I have yet to be convinced that people in our country need access to 19:1 leverage to buy homes. In fact, it may be a fool’s bargain with the extra demand simply feeding higher house prices: the benefits of the policy accruing to wealthier home sellers rather than to the young first-time homebuyers it purports to help,” said Siddall.

Phil Soper, chief executive of Royal LePage Real Estate Services, warned the government should be very careful about its next move in the housing market.

“The precipitous drop in Vancouver housing activity in recent weeks should remind policy makers at CMHC and elsewhere that market balance is delicate, and a heavy regulatory hand can cause much more harm than good,” he said. “The Vancouver real estate market was slowing naturally this summer as prices climbed and demand softened. Provincial and federal governments launched poorly coordinated aggressive moves aimed at slowing the market, which hammered consumer confidence, causing a mass of prospective homeowners to withdraw in fear. Existing property owners will suffer as a result.”

Siddall also raised the spectre of the government not backing 100 per cent of loans as it does now for CMHC mortgage insurance. It backs 90 per cent for private mortgage default insurance providers.

“Rather than offering a whole life policy, guaranteeing 100 per cent of the mortgage for the length of its life, should insurance end at a loan-to-value floor?” he said.

Siddall also told the audience about CMHC’s plan to reduce the government’s risk by forcing private institutions into taking what is effectively a deductible on any bad loans.

“Currently, lenders benefit from a zero risk weighting on guaranteed mortgages. Requiring lenders to have more skin in the game will align interests, reduce moral hazard and allow the system to benefit from enhanced lender risk management,” he said.

Two alternatives are being considered. The first loss approach lenders are responsible for losses up to a fixed amount of the outstanding balance on the loan, with insurers taking on all losses in excess of this limit. Another model would see lenders incur a fixed percentage of the total loss on a loan under a proportionate loss model. The moves could raise mortgage rates on a five year fixed product from 10 to 40 basis points.

Originally Posted in Financial Post



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