vancouver_housing_affordability Photo: Spencer Watson / Unsplash

It would take 58 months of saving to accumulate enough cash for a downpayment on a typical Vancouver condo.

For single-family homes, that number skyrockets seven times higher to 409 months. Both of these figures are the highest in Canada as of 2020’s fourth quarter.

And yet, housing affordability in the region actually improved over 2020.

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A new fourth-quarter report from the National Bank of Canada found that housing affordability continued to improve in Vancouver, after consecutive improvements measured in the second and third quarters of the year. Affordability is measured by the bank’s economics team by looking at a monthly mortgage payment on a typical home as a percentage of the median household income.

For a typical Vancouver condo property, a monthly mortgage payment was 38.7 percent of the median household income in the fourth quarter. In other words, a household would need to shell out 38.7 percent of its monthly income to cover a mortgage payment for a typical Vancouver condo, which National Bank valued at $633,030 for the Metro Vancouver market. That marks a 1.3 percent improvement compared to the previous quarter.

On a typical “non-condo” — meaning any single-family home property — the bank found that the mortgage payment would be 82.1 percent of the median household income, unchanged from the previous quarter. A representative non-condo was priced at $1,342,184 for Metro Vancouver.

Taken together, the bank’s overall housing affordability measure for Vancouver improved by 0.4 percentage points last quarter. The improvement meant the monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of income reached its most affordable level measured since the first quarter of 2016.

While any improvement is surely welcomed by many Vancouver homebuyers, it was far from enough to dethrone the market as the country’s least affordable. For comparison, the monthly mortgage payment on a typical Toronto condo is 34.5 percent of the median household income. For a non-condo, it’s 58.2 percent.

In Montreal, it would take 23.3 percent of the median household income to cover a mortgage payment on a typical condo. For non-condos, it rises to just 31.3 percent.

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