Housing affordability deteriorates across Canada, says RBC Economics

    Climbing prices key driver of erosion

    TORONTO, June 15 /CNW/ - Canada's housing affordability eroded across all
four housing types in the most recent quarter, according to the latest Housing
Affordability report released today by RBC Economics.
    "After posting broad-based improvements at the end of 2006, nationwide
housing affordability deteriorated in the most recent quarter, with price
gains being the main factor," said Derek Holt, assistant chief economist, RBC.
"This erosion occurred despite the strongest gain in median before-tax
household incomes in about a year-and-a-half."
    The RBC Affordability report measures the proportion of pre-tax household
income needed to service the costs of owning a home. The most affordable
housing class remains the standard condo, requiring 27.5 per cent of income. A
standard townhouse is next at 31.5 per cent, followed by a detached bungalow
at 39 per cent. A standard two-storey home remains the least affordable
housing type at 44 per cent.
    According to RBC, the positive correlation between sales-to-listings
ratios and price gains means that most cities remain in net seller's territory
with sales growth outstripping listings. Some housing markets - particularly
cities in central Canada and B.C., - where both new listings and sales are
tapering off simultaneously are likely to experience a controlled cooling.
    While mortgage rates were flat in the first quarter of 2007, the
substantial climb in rates in the second quarter is likely to continue with
more hikes expected to come as the year unfolds. RBC forecasts short-term,
prime-linked borrowing products will rise by a full percentage point by early
next year, and with hikes likely starting this summer. Long-term mortgages are
likely to rise by about 75 basis points from today's levels next year. The end
result could mean a more significant deterioration in affordability later this
    Across the country, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec witnessed
a broad-based affordability deterioration. Standard two-storey homes in B.C.
and the Atlantic region saw a slight improvement, while bungalows in Ontario
bucked the nationwide deterioration.
    Saskatchewan jumped into the spotlight with the sharpest pace of
deterioration, especially in Saskatoon. An influx of migrants, which is at a
twenty-five year high, complemented a pick up in wage growth and caught the
housing supply off-guard.
    RBC's Affordability measure for a detached bungalow in Canada's largest
cities is as follows: Vancouver 68 per cent, Toronto 43 per cent, Calgary
40 per cent, Montreal 35.4 per cent and Ottawa 30.5 per cent.
    Also included in the report are housing affordability conditions 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 incomes into account.
    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.

    Highlights from across Canada:

    -   British Columbia: Solid income gains outstripped softer house price
        growth to make way for another slight improvement in housing
        affordability for two-storey homes. The improvement is welcome relief
        for many prospective homeowners attempting to tap into the already
        elevated property market. Affordability of the remaining three home
        segments deteriorated as prices continued to move higher.
    -   Alberta: Economic fundamentals - including strong wages,
        low unemployment and net provincial migration - are still favouring
        Alberta's housing market. However, the frenzied pace of activity
        exhibited through much of 2006 is starting to moderate.
    -   Saskatchewan: After several years of stability, Saskatchewan's
        housing affordability eroded sharply in the first quarter of 2007.
        Two-storey homes were hit the hardest, as the province's housing
        market jumped into a severe state of excess demand. An influx of
        migrants, which is at a 25 year high, complemented a pick-up in wage
        growth and caught the housing supply off guard, resulting in soaring
        prices and a rapid decline in affordability. Caution is warranted
        because the staying power of this shift in migration is uncertain at
        this early stage.
    -   Manitoba: Manitoba still remains the most affordable province to own
        a home in the country, despite the fact that all four housing types
        saw a decline in affordability. The risk of a market slowdown for
        Manitoba is much less pronounced, compared to other western
    -   Ontario: Healthy income gains were offset by modest house price
        growth, creating very little movement in affordability across all
        housing classes. Annual house price gains continue to bounce between
        three-to-five per cent, as Ontario's housing market continues to
        level off.
    -   Quebec: Housing affordability modestly deteriorated across all
        housing segments. However, Quebec's housing market has had a soft
        landing as house price gains have leveled off while remaining
        positive. Despite softer housing markets that are expected to persist
        through most of 2007, homeowners can still look to retain the equity
        they have accumulated in their homes.
    -   Atlantic region: Atlantic Canada's two-storey home segment continued
        to post improvements in affordability for the first quarter of 2007
        while condos, detached bungalows and townhouses witnessed a slight
        deterioration in affordability.

    The full RBC Housing Affordability report is available online, as of    
8 a.m. E D.T. today at www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/house.pdf.

For further information:

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

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