Household debt, housing remain key risks for financial system: Bank of Canada

Mortgage lending rules have been tightening with application of stress tests on borrowers

Stephen Poloz (Bank of Canada)

Canada’s housing market and high consumer indebtedness levels remain the top vulnerabilities for the financial system, but both have shown signs of easing, according to the Bank of Canada.

The central bank said in a report released Thursday that worries about the amount Canadians owe have begun to pull back, but because of the sheer size of the debt, it will remain a concern for some time.

“The two main vulnerabilities we have been watching closely are showing continued signs of easing, which is encouraging,” Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said in a statement.

“Combined, the impact of higher interest rates and the changes to the mortgage guidelines have reduced credit growth and improved the quality of new lending.”

The assessment came in the Bank of Canada’s latest financial system review, which assesses key vulnerabilities that could amplify or propagate economic shocks.

Mortgage lending rules have been tightening in recent years with the application of stress tests on borrowers. New rules implemented at the start of this year introduced a test for borrowers who do not require mortgage insurance and had not previously been subject to stress testing. The housing market has been noticeably cooling since the beginning of this year.

The central bank said it will monitor the extent to which borrowers who want a larger loan than they qualify for under the new federal guidelines seek out alternative lenders, such as credit unions and private lenders, who are not always subject to the federal rules.

In assessing the housing market risk, the report noted that housing price growth has slowed, led by a drop in the Greater Toronto Area. However, it said the condominium markets in Toronto and Vancouver remain strong with some evidence of speculative activity.

In addition to household debt and the housing market, the report also identified cyberattacks as a key area of concern.

“Even as defensive capacity improves across the financial system, some attacks will inevitability succeed,” the report said. “Having strong recovery plans can help to quickly restore financial system functioning and prevent a loss in confidence.”

The Bank of Canada also announced Thursday that it will no longer publish its financial system review report twice a year.

The report will become an annual review published in June and a member of the bank’s governing council will make a speech in the fall to update its assessment of the vulnerabilities and risks to the financial system.

It will also create a new financial system hub on its website that will publish research and analysis throughout the year.

The Bank of Canada’s quarterly monetary policy report will also include a more in-depth discussion of the relevant issues as warranted.

The central bank has raised its key interest rate three times since last summer, moves that have prompted the big Canadian banks to raise their prime rates which are used to set the rates charged for variable-rate mortgages and other floating-rate loans. The cost of new fixed-rate mortgages have also climbed in recent months as bond yields have risen.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Prince Rupert Rampage fall to River Kings

The Prince Rupert Rampage were eliminated by the River Kings Sunday, sparking a massive post-game brawl.

Rampage bounce back, force a game 3

Prince Rupert beat Terrace River Kings 8-1 on Feb. 16

All Native Basketball Tournament: Seniors Final

Kitkatla holds off upstart Vancouver squad to repeat as champions

All Native Basketball Tournament: Intermediate Finals

All Native Basketball Tournament: Intermediate Finals

All Native Basketball Tournament: Masters Final

The Hydaburg Warriors claimed their fifth straight masters division title Saturday.

Ice skating on the North Coast, a rare treat

Seawolves hockey players bring their gear to Oliver Lake this week to play on the outdoor rink

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read