February 18, 2020 - Ottawa, Ontario - Department of Finance Canada
For many Canadians, their home is the most important investment they will make in their lifetime. That is why the Government of Canada has introduced measures to help more Canadians achieve their housing needs while also taking measured actions to contain risks in the housing market. A stable and healthy housing market is part of a strong economy, which is vital to building and supporting a strong middle class.
Today, Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, announced changes to the benchmark rate used to determine the minimum qualifying rate for insured mortgages, also known as the “stress test.” These changes will come into effect on April 6, 2020. The new benchmark rate will be the weekly median 5-year fixed insured mortgage rate from mortgage insurance applications, plus 2%.
This follows a recent review by federal financial agencies which concluded that the minimum qualifying rate should be more dynamic to better reflect the evolution of market conditions. Overall, the review concluded that mortgage standards are working to ensure that home buyers are able to afford their homes even if interest rates rise, incomes change, or families are faced with unforeseen expenses. This adjustment to the stress test will allow it to be more representative of the mortgage rates offered by lenders and more responsive to market conditions.
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) also announced today that it is considering the same new benchmark rate to determine the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages. OSFI is seeking input from interested stakeholders on this proposal before March 17, 2020.
“For many middle class Canadians, their home is the most important investment they will make in their lifetime. Our government has a responsibility to ensure that investment is protected and to support a stable housing market. The government will continue to monitor the housing market and make changes as appropriate. Reviewing the stress test ensures it is responsive to market conditions.”
Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
When a borrower has less than a 20% down payment, lenders are required to obtain government-backed mortgage insurance. The mortgages must comply with the insured mortgage rules set by the Minister of Finance, including the insured minimum qualifying rate.
When the borrower has a down payment of 20%, or more, of the sale price, insurance is not required. The minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages is set by OSFI, the independent banking regulator.
To help more Canadians access affordable housing that meets their needs, the Government of Canada launched the National Housing Strategy—a 10-year, $55+ billion plan that will build 125,000 new affordable housing units, repair 300,000 others, and reduce chronic homelessness by 50%.
In Budget 2019, the federal government took concrete steps to make homeownership more affordable for first-time buyers by implementing a First-Time Home Buyer Incentive and increasing the Registered Retirement Savings Plan withdrawal limit to $35,000 to buy a home.