Monday, June 22, 2015

Canada’s housing affordability trends diverged regionally during Q1 2015: RBC Economics

From RBC:
  • Affordability measures for Alberta improved the most among Canada’s provinces
  • Affordability conditions continued to deteriorate in Toronto and segments of the Vancouver market

TORONTO, June 22, 2015 -  Housing trends across provinces largely counteracted one another in the first quarter of 2015, leaving affordability relatively unchanged at the national level compared to late-2014, according to the latest Housing Trends and Affordability Report issued today by RBC Economics Research.
RBC says that mortgage rate declines that took place earlier this year contributed to improved levels of affordability in many markets and housing categories where home price increases were subdued, but that deterioration was noted in markets with stronger price gains.
“Canadian markets heavily associated with the oil and gas industry – Calgary and Edmonton in particular – were impacted earlier this year by the plunge in oil prices which tipped the market in favour of buyers due to softening home prices and ownership costs,” said Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist, RBC. “At the other end of the spectrum, solid price increases continued to erode housing affordability in Toronto and Vancouver which remain Canada’s hottest markets.”
Following a temporary slowdown over the harsh winter, home resales picked up smartly in the spring with resales rising 11.2 per cent between February and May to 521,400 units nationally – 11.1 per cent above the 10-year average. RBC says that demand continues to be strongest in Vancouver and Toronto, though there were signs that demand in some previously soft markets, including Montreal and Ottawa, began to pick up.
RBC anticipates Canada’s home resales will rise modestly by 1.5 per cent to 488,500 units in 2015, up from 481,200 units in 2014. The increase mainly reflects strength in British Columbia and Ontario, with mild gains in other oil-consuming provinces also making a contribution. The forecast expects partial offsets from declines in Alberta (down nearly 21 per cent) and Saskatchewan (down close to 13 per cent).
Contrasting regional affordability pictures across Canada are likely to continue in the near term, RBC says, with balanced demand-supply conditions in the majority of local markets supporting modest price increases and somewhat stable levels of affordability overall.
“It’s likely that we’ll see small price declines in the markets dependent on oil, which suggests that home ownership costs may fall further in Alberta, Saskatchewan and possibly markets in Atlantic Canada as well,” said Wright. “We also anticipate strong price momentum to further erode affordability in Toronto and Vancouver, particularly in the single-detached home segments.”
RBC points out that the eventual normalization of monetary policy, which is expected to begin in Q2 2016, could adversely impact affordability levels across Canada. Wright comments: “Exceptionally low interest rates have been a key factor keeping housing affordability levels in a largely manageable state in recent years. The knock-on effect of the anticipated rise in rates would be most visible in high-priced markets.”
The report indicates that affordability generally remains neutral in Canada, with limited signs of stress being exerted on home buyers outside Vancouver and Toronto. RBC’s measures are still quite close to their long-term averages, suggesting that current conditions are within historical norms.
The RBC Housing Affordability measure captures the proportion of pre-tax household income that would be needed to service the costs of owning a specified category of home at current market values (a decrease in the measure represents an improvement in affordability). During Q1 2015, affordability measures at the national level edged lower by 0.3 percentage points to 27.1 per cent for condominiums and 0.2 percentage points to 47.9 per cent for two-storey homes. The measure for detached bungalows was unchanged at 42.7 per cent.
RBC’s housing affordability measure for the benchmark detached bungalow in Canada’s largest cities in Q1 2015 is as follows: Vancouver 85.6 (up 2.8 percentage points from Q4 2014); Toronto 57.3 (up 0.6 percentage points); Montreal 37.2 (down 0.2 percentage points); Ottawa 35.4 (down 0.6 percentage points); Calgary 32.8 (down 1.0 percentage points); Edmonton 32.8 (down 0.8 percentage points).
The RBC Housing Affordability measure, which has been compiled since 1985, is based on the calculated costs of owning a detached bungalow (a reasonable property benchmark for the housing market in Canada) at market value. Alternative housing types are also presented, including a standard two-storey home and a standard condominium apartment. The higher the reading, the more difficult it is to afford a home at market values. For example, an affordability reading of 50 per cent means that home ownership costs, including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, would take up 50 per cent of a typical household’s monthly pre-tax income.
It is important to note that RBC’s measure is designed to gauge ownership costs associated with buying a home at present market values. It is not a representation of the actual costs incurred by current owners, the vast majority of whom have bought in the past at significantly different values than those prevailing in the latest period.
Highlights from across Canada:
British Columbia: Vancouver skews provincial affordability
  • Q1 developments varied by housing categories, but still signaled greater-than-average pressure on affordability. RBC’s measures eased 0.4 percentage points for condos and 0.1 percentage points for two-storey homes, and rose 1.0 percentage points for bungalows.
Alberta: plummeting oil prices contributed to improvement in affordability
  • Housing affordability improved significantly across the province during the first quarter, with RBC measures falling across all categories (between 1.0 and 0.6 percentage points).
Saskatchewan: slower resale activity combined with moderating household income mutes impact on affordability
  • Home resales plummeted more than 16 per cent in the province during Q1, contributing to price declines across housing segments. The impact on affordability was partly muted by a moderation in household income. RBC’s measures fell 0.1 percentage points for condos, rose 0.3 percentage points for bungalows and remained unchanged for two-storey homes.
Manitoba: affordability stands close to long-run averages
  • Affordability of single-detached homes and condos evolved in opposite directions in Q1. RBC’s measures rose by 0.3 percentage points for both bungalows and two-storey homes, while the measure for condos fell noticeably by 1.1 percentage points.
Ontario: affordability theme continues to be split
  • For the past four years, owning a single-detached home at market prices in the province has become less and less affordable, whereas the weight of owning a condo has remained fairly constant. RBC’s measures for bungalows and two-storey homes rose by 0.3 percentage points, while the measure for condos edged lower by 0.2 percentage points.
Quebec: affordability at multi-year best levels
  • After remaining steady for years, housing affordability improved in the province over the course of 2014 and the trend continued in Q1 2015. RBC’s measures fell across all three categories tracked (between 0.3 and 0.1 percentage points).
Atlantic Canada: affordability still attractive and improving
  • The lingering effect of earlier softness in home resale markets led to further improvement in housing affordability in the Atlantic region in Q1. RBC’s affordability measures fell 0.7 percentage points for bungalows and 0.5 percentage points for two-storey homes. The measure for condos was unchanged.
The full RBC Housing Trends and Affordability report is available online as of 8:00 a.m. ET today.


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