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Conservatives announce four-point housing plan

Earlier today, the Conservative Party of Canada made the following housing policy announcement. If elected this fall, they would (copied verbatim from here):

  • Fix the mortgage stress test to ensure that first-time homebuyers aren’t unnecessarily prevented from accessing mortgages and work with OFSI to remove the stress test from mortgage renewals to give homeowners more options.
  • Increase amortization periods on insured mortgages to 30 years for first-time homebuyers to lower monthly payments.
  • Launch an inquiry into money laundering in the real estate sector and work with our industry partners to root out corrupt practices that inflate housing prices.
  • Make surplus federal real estate available for development to increase the supply of housing.

There aren’t a lot of details here, but Andrew Scheer did say that his party would eliminate the financing “stress test” for all mortgage renewals. Currently, you’re only exempt if you renew with your existing lender.

As Rob Carrick points out, this is a pretty sensible move. (Though he doesn’t agree with “fixing” the stress test.) The current situation gives the incumbent lender almost monopolistic power if the borrower can’t meet the stress test and is unable to shop around for a better rate.

At the same time, we know that the price of a highly levered asset tends to correlate with financing ability. So depending on what serves you better, you may be either concerned or delighted that this increased buying power could spur further housing consumption/appreciation.

Housing policy is a complex and curious thing.

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