Homes still unaffordable for average households despite fall in prices: reports

Homes still unaffordable for average households despite fall in prices: reports

Buying a home has become more unaffordable for Canadians even as housing prices fall, according to new reports from the parliamentary budget officer and RBC.

The PBO’s house price assessment, published on Thursday, says the average house cost is 67 percent higher than what the average household can afford — and RBC’s own report says the median household would need to spend 60 percent of its income on ownership costs.

That’s despite a seven percent decline in housing prices from February to August this year.

According to the budget officer, the average national home price in February was more than 50 percent higher than it was two years before.

The national average price of a home reached a peak of $839,600 in February 2022, up 52 percent from $551,100 in February 2020.

Since then, prices have declined by seven percent, down to $777,200 in August.

But with interest rates on the rise, buying a home remains highly unaffordable for the average household.

Using a methodology developed by the International Monetary Fund that examines household borrowing capacity and the ability to purchase a home in select Canadian cities, the PBO says a house considered affordable for an average household in August would cost $464,952.

The national average home price was 67 percent higher.

The gap has gotten larger since December 2021, when the national average house price was about 45 percent more expensive than what an average household could afford, according to the budget officer.

The RBC report, also published Thursday, says buying a home has never been this unaffordable, per its affordability measures.

RBC says the median Canadian household would need to spend 60 percent of its income to cover ownership costs. For those who live in Toronto and Vancouver, the figure balloons to 83 percent and 90 percent, respectively.

Both RBC and budget officer Yves Giroux attribute the worsening of the situation to higher mortgage costs, as the Bank of Canada aggressively raises interest rates to cool high inflation.

Since March, the central bank has hiked its key interest rate by three percentage points. Its key rate currently sits at 3.25 percent and another interest rate hike is expected in October.

The rate hikes are feeding into higher borrowing costs for those seeking a mortgage and, in turn, a slowdown in the housing market.

“The Bank of Canada’s rate hiking campaign since March has added hundreds of dollars to mortgage payments that come with a home purchase,” the RBC report says.

RBC expects affordability issues to peak by the end of the year. As house prices continue to fall and interest rates eventually stabilize, the bank expects affordability to improve.

“The good news is the widespread market downturn is setting the stage for some affordability improvement down the road,” the report says.

Based on scenarios the PBO constructed to gauge where housing prices are headed, prices could decline by 12 to 23 percent by the end of the year from the peak reached in the winter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

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