Tuesday, September 18, 2007

RBC Reports that Housing affordability hit on all sides



Housing affordability hit on all sides


Increases in house prices, mortgage rates, utilities and property taxes all combined in the second quarter to deliver a severe hit to housing affordability. By a slim margin, the portion of before-tax household income going towards home ownership costs suffered its largest and most broadly based quarterly deterioration in the current housing cycle stretching back to the mid-1990s.


Affordability deteriorated in every housing class we track, in every province and in every major city. In two short quarters, Saskatchewan has set a new affordability low concentrated in Saskatoon.


Albertans now pay a higher share of their country-leading incomes on average than Ontarians across every type of housing, although Torontonians still pay more than Calgarians and Edmontonians for a two-storey home. Albertans now pay a higher share of their country-leading incomes on average than Ontarians across every type of housing, although Torontonians still pay more than Calgarians and Edmontonians for a two-storey home. Alberta is still, however, avoiding British Columbia's stressed affordability conditions.


Housing market conditions from Manitoba eastward are not yet a cause for concern, but conditions in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia warrant caution given the speed of the massive turnaround in affordability in several key cities. The economic fundamentals are supportive, but have been priced in fairly aggressively. In our view, a continued cooling in the pace of price gains and an ongoing pull back in sales-to-listings ratios lie in the cards in these cities.


Toronto's housing affordability slid across all four housing segments, but outside the core Toronto area, housing market conditions are healthy and roughly balanced. The bigger risk to affordability conditions is the potential for higher property taxes towards the end of the decade after the current freeze on property value assessments is lifted in 2008.


Montreal's housing affordability also softened across every housing segment. However, Montreal's housing market remains one of the softest among the big cities.


Affordability deteriorated across the board in the Atlantic region, but the two-storey and condo segments saw the sharpest erosion. Despite Ontario's second-quarter affordability hit, a look at historical affordability numbers in Ontario should help calm nerves that the province may be at risk of a significant correction. Unlike many of the western provinces, affordability remains comfortably below levels reached in the late 1980s just before the major housing market crash.


Manitoba had its worst quarterly deterioration in more than a year, but is the most affordable region in the country and has managed to avoid the severe affordability stresses prevailing in neighbouring Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.


Courtesy of Dawn Aspinall RBC Economics Research


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