It’s no secret that rising interest rates and the mortgage stress test have slowed down residential real estate in Canada. But now, as a result, the country has set a new record, HuffPost Canada reports. The growth of Canadian household debt is at its slowest in 36 years.
Household debt grew by just 3.5 per cent year over year in 2018, according to data from the Bank of Canada.
“The pronounced slowdown in Canadian household debt growth continues unabated, largely due to the cooler housing market (at least in Toronto and Vancouver),” Doug Porter, chief economist at the Bank of Montreal, noted in a December report.
While Canadians’ debt has been continually on the rise, it hasn’t been this slow-moving since 1983. At that time, the Bank of Canada’s staggeringly high interest rates slowed debt growth, HuffPost Canada noted. Rates peaked at around 21 per cent in the early 1980s, compared to the peak of 3.64 per cent in 2018.
But the Bank of Canada isn’t the only organization to document Canada’s slow growth of household debt. Statistics Canada data supports this, too.
In the first quarter of 2018, household credit market debt (including mortgage and non-mortgage loans, and consumer credit) as a proportion of disposable income was 168.0 per cent, StatsCan reported. This was a drop from 169.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2017, which is the biggest decline in StatsCan record since 1990, according to the Canadian Press.
In the second and third quarter of 2018, the percentages grew from 168.0 per cent to 177.4 and 177.5 per cent, respectively.
The government introduced the mortgage stress test in 2017 as a way to reduce household debt, and it appears to be working. But while the test has helped people understand what they can afford, thus preventing them from going into debt, it has also shut out a number of prospective first-time homebuyers from the market.
2018 was the first year the number of mortgages in Canada declined, dropping by 0.3 per cent, HuffPost Canada reports. That same year, both Toronto and Vancouver experienced the lowest home sales in 10 and 18 years, respectively.
As a result, organizations such as the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) and Mortgage Professionals Canada have called for the stress test to be reviewed, and are encouraging the amortization period to be increased from 25 to 30 years.
Canadians have the most debt in the world, according to a 2018 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). So maybe the stress test isn’t so bad after all if it’s holding Canadians accountable for their finances.