(The Canadian Press)

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

The Bank of Canada has lowered the rate used by mortgage stress tests to determine whether would-be homeowners can qualify, marking the first drop in three years.

The central bank’s five-year benchmark qualifying rate is now 5.19 per cent, down from 5.34 per cent. It’s the first decrease in the five-year fixed mortgage rate since September 2016, when it dropped from 4.74 per cent to 4.64 per cent, and increased steadily since.

The qualifying rate is used in stress tests for both insured and uninsured mortgages, and a lower rate means it is easier for borrowers to qualify.

“This 15 basis point drop in the qualifying rate will not turn the housing market around in the hardest-hit regions, but it will be an incremental positive psychological boost for buyers,” said Sherry Cooper, chief economist for Dominion Lending Centres in a statement. ”It should also counter, in some small part, what’s been the slowest lending growth in five years.”

READ MORE: B.C. real estate board urges feds to revisit mortgage stress test

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages, or those with a down payment of more than 20 per cent, and mortgage rates inched higher.

These stress tests require potential homebuyers to show they would still be able to make mortgage payments if faced with higher interest rates or less income. The Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate is calculated using the posted rates at the Big Six Banks.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, to qualify for an uninsured mortgage borrowers needed to prove they could still make payments at a qualifying rate of the greater of two percentage points higher than the contractual mortgage rate or the central bank’s five-year benchmark rate.

An existing stress test already stipulated that homebuyers with less than a 20 per cent down payment seeking an insured mortgage must qualify at the central bank’s benchmark five-year mortgage rate.

The federal financial regulator has said that the new, stricter regulations aimed to tighten mortgage lending and take some of the risk out of the market.

Meanwhile, home sales have improved in recent months as mortgage rates have moved lower.

READ MORE: Mortgage test, high supply to keep cooling B.C. housing prices in 2019, report says

But on Thursday, the Ontario Real Estate Association called for less stringent mortgage rules, saying that policy changes are needed to counter a downward trend in home ownership.

OREA’s chief executive Tim Hudak said in a letter to federal policy-makers that Ottawa should consider restoring 30-year insured mortgages, ease up on the interest rate stress test and eliminate the test altogether for those renewing their mortgage with a different lender.

Borrowers looking to renew their mortgages are subject to stress tests if they switch to a new lender, but not if they stick with their current one.

In a May letter to policy-makers, the chief executive of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defended the stricter lending rules, arguing that “the stress test is doing what it is supposed to do.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino-Ucluelet region rallies around injured five-month-old puppy

A Hitacu puppy is home and healing after being struck by a vehicle in Hitacu

Storm season expected to arrive in Tofino-Ucluelet on Tuesday

Environment Canada has issued a storm warning for the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Ucluelet chamber of commerce searching for new executive director

“Lara did a phenomenal job and we will really miss her.”

Offleash dogs put shorebirds resting on Tofino beaches in jeopardy

“It’s a free-for-all. Most of the violators are locals, I believe, but there are visitors as well.”

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Nanaimo RCMP shut down illegal racing and stunt driving site

Police “swoop in” to seize vehicles and issue violation tickets

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Most Read