It's Your Money  

Mortgage lenders chastised

Canadian mortgage lenders have been chastised by CMHC.

A sharply worded letter released by Canada’s national housing agency (CMHC) has drawn:

  • Praise from those looking out for consumers’ interest
  • Criticism from many mortgage lenders and others who profit from questionable lending practices.

CMHC CEO Evan Siddall released a scathing letter that chastised a long list of prominent mortgage lenders for helping heavily indebted borrowers buy new and more expensive homes, which, he argued, could harm Canada’s economic growth.

His request for lenders to “put our country’s long-term outlook ahead of short-term profitability” arrived without warning and put many lenders on the defence.

On Friday, Peter Routledge, Canada Deposit Insurance Corp CEO, expressed backing for the CMHC letter stating they too are seriously concerned by lenders’ behaviours.

CMHC announced in early June that it would tighten its standards to qualify for mortgage insurance on July 1.

These tighter qualification standards have not necessarily had their intended effect (to keep over-extended Canadians from spending more than they an afford) but instead seen a bigger shift to “private insurers” who are only interested in their bottom lines.

At the same time that this letter was released last week, the Bank of Canada made a second reduction to their benchmark mortgage rate now set at 4.79%.

This rate is used for mortgage approval stress tests and lowering it has the exact opposite effect and consequences of what the CMHC is trying to avoid.

What does all of this mean for you? Is Canada’s housing market nearing a breaking point?

The housing market seems to have brushed off COVID concerns and continues to defy all logic or rational. Even CMHC’s warning that our housing market may drop by 18% this fall doesn’t seem to dissuade people.

While nobody knows for sure, alarm bells are (or should be) ringing loud and clear. What happens when the government benefits wind down and unemployment numbers tick higher?

Will you find yourself over-extended and unable to manage your debt load?

The right way to approach any lending situation is through the eyes of a sound financial plan that tells you what you can really afford to spend, and not simply spending whatever amount you can get approved for.

Following this path will give you confidence to live within your means, regardless of what lenders tell you to spend.

Only time will tell when and how big our next housing correction will be, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for it today.


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About the Author

Brett, designated as a chartered investment manager and certified financial planner, is the regional director (Okanagan) for IG Wealth Management.

In addition to his “day job," Brett was appointed to the board of directors of FP Canada (formerly FPSC) in 2014, named as the board’s vice-chair in 2017 and took over as board chairman in 2019. 

Brett has been writing a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy to understand explanations of the complex financial challenges that they face in every stage of life.

Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority of Brett’s and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer and on the regulatory side through the FP Canada board focus on this initiative.   

Please let Brett know if you have any topics that you’d like him to cover in future columns by emailing him at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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