Canadians Paying Dearly For Their Housing

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Includes: EWC, FCAN, HEWC, IFNA, QCAN
by: Danielle Park, CFA

Another housing study has come to familiar conclusions: Canada boasts the least affordable housing in North America. With a median family income of just under $65,000 a year, it would take 7.5 years for a family to pay off the median priced home valued at 485K. That's if they were able to live on air and direct ever single dime of income to paying off just their home for 7.5 years.

According to the latest International Housing Affordability Survey, a multiple of 3x income and under is considered affordable, and multiples over 5.1 are considered severely unaffordable. In Vancouver, this multiple is now 17.3 and in the greater Toronto area 7.5x. You can look up comparables on other NA cities at this link.

While it's true the most extreme valuations are found in the largest urban areas of Vancouver, Greater Toronto and Montreal, the bad news is that those three cities are where more than one-third of all Canadians now live, with a combined population of 12.5 million, and nearly one half of those are living in Toronto and its suburban neighbors, according to the 2016 Canadian Census.

Not surprisingly then, 97% of Canadian homeowners surveyed by TD Bank in September said that they wished they had factored in other financial obligations such as property taxes, maintenance and lifestyle costs (like food and heat), before paying up for their housing.

And with unemployment at cycle lows, the stock market back at cycle highs and the economy still not yet officially in recession, the cash crunch is just getting started. A comment I received this week from a reader in the Greater Toronto Area offers a glimpse of the pressures building as low yields and high costs prompt boomers (many still in debt) to try and downsize.

"Being a mortgage broker for 11 years - a bank employee for a dozen years and a previous real estate agent & real estate appraiser; I think I have some insight into the real estate market and buyers, sellers and clients. I see a lot of financial hardship. So many people are struggling. Currently, I have several clients wanting to downsize but are not getting any showings on their houses for sale. They are overpriced and reluctant to drop their prices because once they pay off their mortgage and debts, there will not be enough for a down payment on a cheaper home."