Click here to join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates as they happen. Unsubscribe any time.

Facts From the 2012 Canadian Housing Observer

Canadian Housing Observer 2012“…The increasing role of mortgage brokers (has) enhanced the ability of borrowers to negotiate better mortgage rates or other terms,” says CMHC’s latest Canadian Housing Observer.

That’s not at all surprising. But what some people don’t realize is that CMHC supports brokers (indirectly) by supporting small lenders and competition. It does that through its Canada Mortgage Bond (CMB) program.

CMBs provide liquidity to smaller lenders, some of which depend on it heavily. In turn, brokers are active users of those lenders.

CMHC says, “the number of participants other than the big 6 banks in 5-year fixed rate CMB transactions almost quadrupled between 2006 and mid-2012.” Smaller lenders now make up 82% of CMB participants and 61% of issuance volume.

In short, CMHC has helped keep mortgage rates lower than they’d otherwise be. Other things equal, that would be a boon for mortgage borrowers. The question is, how much have lower rates boosted home prices and offset the rate savings?

According to this Bank of Canada research, it may be less than some think. Declining real interest rates have accounted for only 13% of the past decade’s home price growth, the BoC contends. Meanwhile, estimated 5-year fixed discount mortgage rates fell almost 40% in that same time period.


Below are other factoids from this year’s Housing Observer:

3.7%:  The ratio of mortgage interest paid to household disposable income, as of 2011. This is well below the 4.7% average since 1990, says CMHC.

64%: The ratio of Canada’s housing stock that is 30+ years old.

177,019: The average annual growth in the number of Canadian households (from 2006-2011).

75%: The amount of mortgages held by chartered banks (That’s as of January 2012 and includes securitized mortgages. Credit Unions are second and hold 12%.)

72% of CMB buyers are Canadian. The next biggest share (14.5%) comes from the U.S.

41.5% of CMB buyers are insurance companies and pension funds while 36.7% are chartered banks and “quasi banks.”

And here are a few charts of note…


CMHC says the ratio of mortgage principal and interest to disposable income was 34.3% at the beginning of 2012. That’s well below 2007 and 1990, but it’s also well above the 26.8% from one decade prior (in 2001).


This chart above shows how cost-effective CMBs have been as a mortgage funding source. That’s even more important when the relative cost of funding via deposits (GICs) rises significantly, as it did last year.

Apart from CMHC’s securitization programs, there is also private securitization. Unfortunately, there has been no market for, and no issuance of, private residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) in recent years (2010 or 2011). Prior to the financial crisis, certain non-bank lenders relied heavily on RMBS.

On a more positive note, CMHC says “renewed investor interest” has helped asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) make somewhat of a comeback in the mortgage market. ABCP provided funding for $10.1 billion of mortgage assets in 2011, after some tough years following the credit meltdown.

Rob McLister, CMT