Date Posted: May 21, 2021
Canadian officials escalated efforts to cool the nation's booming housing market, moving ahead with tighter mortgage qualification rules after the central bank issued a fresh warning against buyers taking on too much debt.
In a release Thursday, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions said the new qualifying rate for an uninsured mortgage – where borrowers have at least a 20% down payment – will rise to either the mortgage contract rate plus 200 basis points or 5.25%, whichever is higher.
After OSFI's announcement, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement the new rules will also apply to insured mortgages - mortgages with a down payment of less than 20 per cent.
Currently, the stress test is set at the mortgage rate plus 200 basis points (or two percentage points) or the Bank of Canada’s five-year rate, which currently sits at 4.79%. In a release, OSFI Assistant Superintendent of Regulation Ben Gully said the decision to impose the more stringent conditions would help tamp down any financial risk stemming from the housing sector.
“In a complicated and sometimes volatile housing market, the need for sound mortgage underwriting cannot be underestimated,” he said. “The rate in place as of June 01, 2021 will help support financial resilience should economic circumstances change, while our commitment to review the qualifying rate at least annually will contribute to continued confidence in the Canadian financial system.”
As part of the new framework, OSFI announced it will launch a process to review the qualifying rate at least once a year, in December. OSFI said that timing would allow it to adjust regulatory conditions well ahead of the busy spring selling season.
An early version of the stress test was first put in place in 2016 as regulators looked to gird against potential hits to financial stability due to the housing market. OSFI then announced plans to review the conditions of the stress test in January 2020 before shelving its consultations in March of last year due to the uncertainty over how the pandemic would impact the Canadian housing market.
Are you worried about how this new qualifying rate increase can affect you? Contact one of our mortgage brokers today!