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

Fraser Valley about to heat up

Temperatures to climb into the low 30s next week

UPDATE: All lanes open after crash closed Sea-to-Sky near Lions Bay

Hwy. 99 not expected to re-open until 2:30 p.m.

BC Lions defensive back Marcell Young levels streaker in home opener

Young hit the fan near one of the 45-yard lines

Sonar search set for Saturday for Surrey man who went missing at Chilliwack Lake

Search for the missing 18-year-old Surrey man by Chilliwack Search and Rescue shifts to recovery

South Surrey sting ends with dropped charges

Shop owner frustrated with outcome after videotaping regular customer

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

B.C. NHL prospect expected to make ‘full recovery’ after an incident in Calgary

Jordy Bellerive was injured in a reported house fire Saturday night

Police: Taxi driver who hit 8 Moscow pedestrians fell asleep

Two Mexican World Cup fans were among those hit

B.C. VIEWS: Orphans of our urban drug culture neglected again

Child advocate Bernard Richard leaves B.C. with harsh message

From marijuana beer to pot cookies, Canadian companies creating cannabis edibles

Manufacturers think that edibles will do well with users who don’t want to smoke or vape

Privacy lawyer warns against victim blaming in recent sextortion scams

Perpetrators get sexual photos of the victim and threaten to share them with friends and families

Motorcycle crash sends man to hospital with life-threatening injuries

Rider collided with a car near Edmonds SkyTrain in Burnaby

QB Jennings leads Lions to 22-10 win over Alouettes

B.C. wins CFL home opener over Montreal

Most Read