It might be hard for residents of Canada’s most expensive cities to imagine, but real estate actually became more affordable in several major Canadian housing markets this past quarter, suggests the latest Housing Affordability Monitor from National Bank.
“Yet again this quarter, there is still a significant divergence across regions with no less than 6 markets showing an improvement of the situation in contrast with British Columbia and the GTA cities that experienced further deterioration,” reads the National Bank report covering 10 census metro areas.
So while affordability crumbled most drastically in Toronto last quarter, it ended up improving in the census metro areas of Montreal, Quebec, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa/Gatineau and Winnipeg.
National Bank gauges affordability by looking at what percentage of median household income is needed to cover monthly mortgage payments for a median-priced home. The bank assumes a five-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 25-year amortization period.
By this standard, Victoria was the least affordable market in the country as a median-earning household would have to fork over 75.5 per cent of its pre-tax income just to cover mortgage costs.
Vancouver was second most unaffordable at 75.1 per cent, roughly unchanged from earlier in the year, and Toronto followed at 66 per cent — up a country-leading 3.2 percentage points from the previous quarter.
However, Vancouver is where it takes house hunters the longest to save up for a minimum downpayment at a staggering 127.5 months, or more than a decade.
Two other cities were above the 100-month mark: Victoria and Toronto at 114.6 months and 105.6 months, respectively. The 10-city Canadian average is 39.4 months, an increase from 35.3 months at the same time last year.
That’s all based on a rate of savings of 10 per cent of the pre-tax median household income each year.
“The worsening of affordability in Q2 was the eighth in a row, the longest run in almost 3 decades,” says National Bank in the report.
But homeownership is more easily attainable in some markets than others.
The market in which the median-earning household could purchase a home the fastest was Quebec City, for example.
In 25.5 months, households would have saved for a downpayment, according to National Bank’s measure. Edmonton was a close second clocking in at 25.9 months.
Notably, in Edmonton, as well as in Ottawa/Gatineau and Winnipeg, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is greater than mortgage payments.
While Quebec rents are still cheaper than making mortgage payments, it would take just 22.4 per cent of the median household income to cover the costs, making it the most affordable of any metro area.
And prospects there for homebuyers have been improving, as the latest affordability reading is down nearly a full percentage point from the previous quarter and 1.6 percentage points compared a year prior.
Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal all saw affordability improve by between 0.7 to 1 percentage points.