Canada’s housing market remains at a high degree of vulnerability and housing starts set to level off

Canada’s housing markets remain highly vulnerable with evidence of moderate overvaluation and price acceleration, according to  Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). After a boost in residential construction in 2017, housing starts are projected to decline by 2019, but to remain close to the average level from the last 5 years.

This analysis is from two key CMHC reports released today: the Housing Market Assessment (HMA) and Housing Market Outlook (HMO).

CMHC’s HMA continues to find housing markets in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon highly vulnerable. There is low evidence of overbuilding overall at the national level but there are growing concerns surrounding overbuilding in Calgary, Edmonton and St. John’s. In these markets, the supply of new and unsold homes outweighs the demand for housing.

Housing Market Assessment (HMA) highlights

  • Despite the recent easing in Toronto’s resale market, we continued to detect moderate evidence of price acceleration with strong growth in home prices among all housing types. High house prices could not be explained by fundamental economic drivers such as income and population growth.
  • Hamilton’s housing market remained highly vulnerable for the fifth consecutive quarter. House prices continued to grow more quickly than levels supported by economic and demographic fundamentals.
  • Vancouver’s housing market remained highly vulnerable, with evidence of moderate overheating and price acceleration, and strong overvaluation. Imbalances remained between demand and supply in the resale home market, especially for multi-family units.
  • Victoria’s overheating persisted due to continued elevated sales for apartments and townhomes in the resale market, but very low inventories in the new home market of unsold homes to support the strong demand.
  • The Quebec CMA market is now reported to have low levels of vulnerability. However, overbuilding remains an area of concern as we continue to see vacancy rates increasing for conventional rental housing.

CMHC’s HMO provides a forward-looking analysis anticipating emerging trends in Canada’s new home, resale and rental housing markets. Variables covered include housing starts, MLS® sales, and vacancy rates. Other economic factors considered in our analysis include economic and employment growth, migration, population and mortgage rates.

After the expected boost in residential construction for 2017, housing starts are projected to decline by 2019. Sales in the existing-homes market are expected to decline relative to the record level of more than 535,000 MLS® sales registered in 2016.

The average MLS® price should increase over the forecast horizon, but at a slower rate than in the past four years. The average should lie between $493,900 and $511,300 in 2017 and between $499,400 and $524, 500 by 2019.

Housing Market Outlook (HMO) regional highlights

British Columbia

Housing starts and MLS® sales in B.C. are expected to decrease in 2018 and 2019, but will remain above historical levels, while MLS® prices will continue to grow at a slower pace as the housing market moves towards more balanced conditions. Rental demand will continue to be strong through the forecast period, with vacancy rates remaining tight and average rents rising.

Prairies

Alberta and Saskatchewan’s gradual recovery from the oil-price shock that started in 2014 will likely contribute to positive net interprovincial migration flows, supporting housing markets. Housing market conditions are expected to continue to slowly transition from a buyer’s market to a more balanced one in 2018 and 2019. However, the overbuilding in many CMAs is expected to put downward pressure on new housing construction. Manitoba has a more diversified economy compared to the other two provinces, which has allowed it to mitigate the risk of large economic swings that the oil-producing provinces experience when oil prices move significantly.

Ontario

Ontario MLS® sales and starts will trend lower over the forecast horizon, with modest growth in home prices expected relative to the recent past. Rising mortgage carrying costs will exert downward pressure on housing demand and shift demand to multi-unit homes which includes condominium and rental units. Housing demand will hold up better in eastern and southwestern Ontario centres given higher affordability levels, fewer market imbalances and generally better economic conditions.

Québec

Stronger employment growth will stimulate housing demand in 2018 and 2019. As a result, the province’s resale markets will continue to tighten and prices are projected to rise. Meanwhile, population aging will continue to provide support to residential construction in the apartment segment.

Atlantic Canada

Housing starts, MLS® sales and prices are expected to rise gradually over the forecast period, but continued economic growth will rely heavily on boosting exports.

As Canada’s authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers objective housing research and information to Canadian governments, consumers and the housing industry.

“We continue to see a high degree of vulnerability in Canada’s housing market, fuelled by moderate overvaluation and price acceleration. House price growth continues to outpace economic fundamentals like household income and population growth. In 2018 and into 2019, housing starts are projected to decline while house prices should increase over the forecast horizon, but at a slower rate than in the past four years.”

Bob Dugan, Chief Economist, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Source CMHC