Photo: James Bombales

There are plenty of factors that should keep the Canadian housing market relatively cool in 2019. Stricter mortgage rules, rising interest rates, and high household debt levels are all expected to contribute towards some lacklustre activity numbers. But, according to one bank, population growth should keep the market balanced in the country’s largest cities.

“Rising rates are a clear headwind to housing markets,” writes the TD Economics team, in their quarterly economic forecast. “However, it is important to bear in mind a key fundamental: population growth has been very robust of late, and is set to remain healthy for the foreseeable future with an immigration target of 340k by 2020.”

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That’s especially true when it comes to the country’s economic hubs, which consistently see the highest levels of immigration and demand for housing.

“With many of these new Canadians destined for ‘landing pad’ cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, demand conditions should remain healthy,” writes the team. “All told, we see more balanced conditions prevailing that will prevent another run-up in sales and prices.”

And while some of the country’s smaller housing markets may not see the same population boom in 2019, the team writes that a relatively balanced picture is emerging in cities across the country.

“Performances are mixed, but aren’t waving any red flags; New Brunswick and Quebec continue to see healthy gains, while soft conditions prevail in the Prairies,” reads the forecast.

Of course, each market will have to grapple with the reality of rising interest rates. The Bank of Canada (BoC) hiked the overnight rate to 1.75 percent in October, a move that has caused the big banks to raise mortgage rates, and many buyers to rethink their decision to enter the market.

The BoC is forecasted to hike rates at least twice more in the new year, which should keep activity from returning to the heights seen in the spring of 2017.

“For the year ahead, we anticipate most major Canadian resale markets to remain in a holding pattern, caught between continued healthy income fundamentals and gradually rising interest rates,” concludes the forecast. “Price gains are expected to be muted in most parts of the country.”

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