Housing affordability in Canada’s large urban centres improved in the second quarter of 2020 after having deteriorated in the two prior quarters. Higher incomes helped in Q2 but the largest portion of the improvement came in the form of lower interest rates. Indeed, the latter declined 19 basis points in the quarter, reflecting the easing from the central bank. Combined, income and mortgage rates were more than enough to offset the increase in home prices. Still, the decline in interest rates on a quarterly average basis does not completely reflect the change in 5-year mortgage rates since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The February to June decline in mortgage interest rates was a much more significant 41 basis points. Looking ahead, the preliminary data for rates shows additional improvements in the third quarter of the year (cumulatively they are down over 70 bps). While we expect this to help affordability, home prices should remain resilient based on the latest resale market data showing record sales volumes. Homebuyers have rushed back to the market after having delayed purchases and are now being offered record-low interest rates. Once pent-up demand is exhausted, the Canadian housing market will still have to face high levels of unemployment and reduced household formation due to lower immigration.