Alberta's housing market ripe for a slowdown in 2008, says RBC

    CALGARY, Jan. 24 /CNW/ -Alberta's housing market is signaling a
significant slowdown which should improve affordability in 2008, according to
a new housing report issued today by RBC Economics.
    "Many prospective homebuyers were priced out of the market last year as
affordability conditions eroded, thereby pushing markets into unsustainable
territory," said Derek Holt, assistant chief economist, RBC. "Further, the
first net migration outflow in over a decade also contributed to the
    The RBC Affordability measure for Alberta, which captures the proportion
of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home,
deteriorated for the detached bungalow to 43 per cent, the standard two-story
home to 46 per cent, and the standard townhouse to 33 per cent. The standard
condo was the only segment to witness affordability improve to 28 per cent.
    According to the report, a softer migration outlook will reinforce a
slowdown evident in the construction sector. Last year, housing starts
plateaued at 48,000 units and this year are expected to drop by 10,000 units.
Demand for new and existing homes slowed sharply at the end of 2007 and will
likely continue to drop this year. Annual price gains have declined
dramatically from 30 per cent in 2007, down to an expected nine per cent in
    For Calgary and Edmonton, warning signs have also been mounting as
housing markets soared into unsustainable territory in 2006 and 2007. However,
house price gains in Calgary and Edmonton have dropped from 50 per cent last
year to more recent gains hovering between 10-15 per cent. Sales-to-listings
ratios in both cities have swung dramatically from a deep seller's market
early in 2007 to more balanced conditions in both Calgary and Edmonton.
    "Housing markets are starting to cool and affordability should start to
improve in both cities for 2008," noted Holt.
    The Housing Affordability measure, which RBC has compiled since 1985, is
based on the costs of owning a detached bungalow, a reasonable property
benchmark for the housing market. Alternative housing types are also presented
including a standard two-storey home, a standard townhouse and a standard
condo. The higher the reading, the more costly it is to afford a home. For
example, an Affordability reading of 50 per cent means that homeownership
costs, including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, take up 50
per cent of a typical household's monthly pre-tax income.
    The report also looked at mortgage carrying costs relative to incomes for
a broader sampling of smaller cities across the country. For these smaller
cities, RBC has used a narrower measure of housing affordability that only
takes mortgage payments relative to income into account.
    RBC's Affordability measures for a detached bungalow for Canada's largest
cities are as follows: Vancouver, 72 per cent, Calgary, 46 per cent, Toronto,
46 per cent, Montreal, 37 per cent and Ottawa, 32 per cent.

    Highlights from across Canada:

    -   British Columbia: Housing affordability reached into uncharted
        territory late last year as affordability deteriorated to its worst
        level since 1985 when RBC started tracking conditions. Modest
        improvements are expected for 2008.

    -   Saskatchewan: Housing affordability deteriorated sharply across all
        home segments last year as a sudden influx of migrants strained
        existing housing capacity. In 2008, housing affordability conditions
        are expected to stabilize.

    -   Manitoba: The province's housing market is still running at full
        tilt. Affordability should improve as rising costs start to weigh on
        demand and help rebalance the market in 2008.

    -   Ontario: Income growth is expected to cool amidst toughening economic
        conditions in the province. On balance, our affordability forecast in
        2008 points to overall improving conditions as mortgage rates drift
        lower and price gains moderate even further.

    -   Quebec: Housing affordability continued to deteriorate last year.
        Stable and modest price gains combined with some mortgage rate relief
        this year should translate into an overall improvement in
        affordability conditions across all four home segments in 2008.

    -   Atlantic region: Strong house price gains and rising mortgage rates
        chipped away at affordability conditions in 2007. In 2008, Atlantic
        Canada is expected to move onto a softer growth trajectory as housing
        construction activity gears down.

    The full RBC Housing Affordability report is available online, as of
    8 a.m. E.S.T. today at

For further information:

For further information: Derek Holt, RBC Economics, (416) 974-6192; Amy
Goldbloom, RBC Economics, (416) 974-0579; Jackie Braden, RBC Media Relations,
(416) 974-2124

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