“We don’t expect the base Canadian housing market to experience the trauma of the U.S. market,” said Robert Hogue, senior economist at Royal Bank of Canada /quotes/zigman/17988/quotes/nls/ry RY -0.29% in Toronto.
Regulatory observers said they agree that a series of actions taken by the Canadian government starting in 2008 and culminating in a June 2012 package of reforms to limit access to credit for borrowers is having its intended effect of cooling the frothy Canadian housing market.
Responding to the financial crisis of 2008, the Canadian government set a minimum down payment of 5% for government-backed mortgages. It also began a gradual reduction in the maximum amount of time borrowers could take to pay down their mortgages. The limit was set at 35 years in 2008 and was last cut in June to 25 years. The moves were imposed to tighten up underwriting standards that had been loosened between 2004 and 2008.
The steps were necessary, observers say, in the face of rising home prices — Canadian house prices have roughly doubled in the past decade, according to credit rater Standard & Poor’s — that forced borrowers to take on high debt to buy a house.
“There are signs that the market has been slowing. The measures [to tighten mortgage underwriting standards] by public authorities are preventative as well as reactive and cautionary, and they are having an effect,” said Sheryl Kennedy, CEO of Promontory Canada and deputy governor at the Bank of Canada from 1994 to 2008.