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Renting or Buying? New Regulations Are Making Affordability More Difficult


Renting or Buying? New Regulations Are Making Affordability More Difficult

Beginning January 1, 2018, if you are buying a home, even if you have equity of 20% or more, a new regulation announced this week by OSFI (the Ontario Superintendent of Financial Institutions) could make it more difficult for you to qualify for a mortgage.

The revised Residential Mortgage Underwriting Practices and Procedures include several key changes that the regulator says is part of its expectation that federally-regulated mortgage lenders remain vigilant in their underwriting practices, the most significant of which is a new “stress test”.

One fear hitting the headlines today is that the impacted borrowers will turn to unregulated lenders including credit unions and caisses populaires, which are not subject to the new rules.

 If you stay with the same institution, banking competition will be even further restricted as those renewing mortgages will not have the ability to shop around. Great for the banks!

In order to qualify for an uninsured mortgage the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages will be the greater of the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada or the contractual mortgage rate +2%.  So if the Bank of Canada five-year rate is 5% and you are able to negotiate a lower rate from your financial institution – say 3.5%, then the stress test will mean that you would otherwise have to qualify for a 5.5% rate mortgage in order to be approved.  Alternatively, if you were only able to negotiate a 50 basis point reduction from the posted rate, or 4.5%, then you would have to show that you would qualify for a 6.5% rate mortgage of the same amount.  What this will likely mean for most borrowers, is that they will not be able to afford the home that they thought they could before the change in regulations.

For example, as reported by TREB (The Toronto Real Estate Board) the average price of a semi-detached home in the GTA in September, 2017 was $752,379.  A buyer with a 20% down payment would need a mortgage of approximately $600,000 in order to purchase this “average” home.  Let’s say that the Bank of Canada five-year benchmark rate is 5.0% and that this purchaser was able to negotiate a rate of 4% with their financial institution.  Therefore, the purchaser would have to demonstrate that they could afford the payments on a 6% mortgage of this amount (roughly an additional $350.00 per month or $4,200.00 per year on a monthly pay mortgage amortized over 25 years), otherwise they would only qualify for a smaller mortgage.  If they could not come up with that extra income to show that they would qualify for a $600,000 mortgage under the new regulation, then they would have to settle for a mortgage of $545,000, meaning that with their $150,000 down payment they could only afford a home priced around $695,000, or roughly 8% less than the price of the average semi-detached home selling currently in the GTA.

So for many, the alternative will be to look for a smaller home to purchase, perhaps a less expensive condominium, rent or move out of the city.  And sadly, the news does not get much better with those alternatives, due to the shortages of available units in both the sales and rental markets for condominiums.  And affordability is becoming a real issue as the focus of buyers and renters alike has shifted to condominiums, bidding up prices both for units for sale and units for rent.

Urbanation just released its analysis of this year’s third quarter and found condo rents averaged $2,219 a month for units averaging 743 square feet – a $232 year-over-year increase. It also found that newly signed leases in the third quarter, at 7,761, hadn’t much changed in a year.

A new report commissioned by the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario says the Liberal government’s Fair Housing Plan has negatively impacted the province’s rental housing supply. Before the introduction of the government legislation, 28,000 rental units were in the planning pipeline, but since the new rules were introduced 1,000 of those units have been cancelled or converted to condominiums. The report estimates that if 6,250 new rental units are not built per year in Ontario supply will continue to drop and naturally drive the demand up and the prices.

A lot of factors have conspired to put relentless pressure on the rental market – the astronomical cost of homeownership, stricter mortgage qualifications, high migration and the Fair Housing Plan, among others – but none has been more pronounced than the supply shortage.  Moreover, the reintroduction of rent control has provided tenants increased incentive to remain in their dwellings, stunting the turnover rate.

Tim Hudak, CEO of OREA (The Ontario Real Estate Association) recently had this to say about the latest regulation. “It’s time for governments to hit the brakes on more demand side policy interventions and take a wait and see approach. Ontario’s housing market is too important to the provincial economy to move ahead with unnecessary regulation that will hurt the dream of home ownership.”

If you are curious to know how much your property is worth today or how much you can afford to buy, please feel free to reach out; and if you found this article helpful please hit "Like" and "Share".