Government housing market measures hurting, not helping first-time buyers, says Macdonald Realty | Vancouver Sun


A one-bedroom condo at 1565 W 6th Avenue in Vancouver listed for $698,000. The overheated entry-level home buying market is being caused by conflicting initiatives from various levels of government, says Dan Scarrow. SUPPLIED

The federal government’s tougher mortgage lending rules and the British Columbia government’s affordable housing measures are working against each other. Ultimately, these moves will hurt first-time buyers the most, says a senior real estate executive with a leading Vancouver-based firm.

Canada’s banking regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, says it wants to reduce the risk of mortgage defaults due to high levels of household debt. But applying stricter lending guidelines is making it more difficult for home buyers to access mortgage funds, says Dan Scarrow, vice-president at Macdonald Realty.

Last year, the former Liberal provincial government offered first-time home buyers help in covering the cost of a mortgage down payment with an interest-free loan of up to $37,500 that is payment-free for the first five years, Scarrow said, adding the new NDP government says it wants to continue the program for the time being.

These initiatives, on top of government intervention with the 15 per cent foreign buyers’ tax introduced last year and two interest rate hikes this year, are causing major market distortions, such as overheated entry-level home buying and a cooling of the higher priced homes in Vancouver, he said.

Over the past year, MLS statistics show that the benchmark price for a single-family home in greater Vancouver rose only 2.9% to $1,617,300 while condo prices soared 21.7% to a benchmark price of $635,800.

In the end, all these initiatives are hurting the very people that various levels of government are trying to help, says Bill Dick, managing broker for Macdonald Realty.

“Since many of the government reforms have been implemented, the top end of the market has softened while the entry level has performed extremely well,” he said.

While Macdonald Realty realizes there is a place for some government intervention in the housing market, it is against the mortgage regulation changes that it sees as unnecessary, especially considering that Canadian banks have long been recognized globally for managing their business well.

“The regulators have arbitrarily insisted that buyers undergo stress testing that artificially limits the amount that they can borrow, making it harder for first-time buyers to compete with already wealthy landowners,” Scarrow says. “The banks have their own risk assessment and they have made the determination that these are acceptable risks and returns that they are willing to take.”

Macdonald Real Estate Group employs more than 1,000 people in over a dozen real estate offices across British Columbia. Last year, sales volume exceeded $8.9 billion while assets under management grew to over $5 billion.

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Macdonald Realty. The article was originally posted on November 6, 2017. Written by Michael Bernard.