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No respite for Canadian housing affordability in Q4 2023
From National Bank of Canada
The fourth quarter of 2023 witnessed a second consecutive deterioration for housing affordability in Canada. The degradation was widespread with every single market experiencing an increase in their mortgage payment as a percentage of income (MPPI) due to both higher interest rates and rising home prices. This worsening has practically eliminated recent improvements in affordability and our index at the national level is almost back to its worst affordability since the 1980s. That said, the headline index dissimulates a more worrisome picture. Indeed, the condo sub-index has reached its highest level of unaffordability in at least two decades. In other words, it would take nearly half of pre-tax median household income to service the median condo mortgage. With the condo market typically being the entry point for first-time homebuyers it leaves the latter with few options. While homeownership is becoming untenable, the rental market offers little respite. Our rental affordability index has never been worse. It would take nearly one third of pre-tax household income to pay for the average rent of a two-bedroom condo. The outlook for the coming year is fraught with challenges. While mortgage interest rates are showing signs of waning in the face of expected rate cuts by the central bank, housing demand remains supported by unprecedented population growth. As a result, we expect some upside to prices in 2024. On the rental side, in a recently released report by the CMHC, Canada`s rental market vacancy stumbled to a record low of 1.5% which leaves little room for an improvement in rents. Supply for any segment of the market isn`t expected to pick up anytime soon as building permits in many Canadian cities has plummeted at the end of 2023.
Canadian Home Sales Showing Signs of Recovery
Following a weak second half of 2023, home sales over the last two months are showing signs of recovery, according to the latest data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
Home sales activity recorded over Canadian MLS Systems rose 3.7% between December 2023 and January 2024, building on the 7.9% month-over-month increase recorded the month prior. While activity is now back on par with 2023s relatively stronger months recorded over the spring and summer, it begins 2024 about 9% below the 10-year average.
Sales are up, market conditions have tightened quite a bit, and there has been anecdotal evidence of renewed competition among buyers; however, in areas where sales have shot up most over the last two months, prices are still trending lower. Taken together, these trends suggest a market that is starting to turn a corner but is still working through the weakness of the last two years, said Shaun Cathcart, CREAs Senior Economist.
Bank of Canada maintains policy rate, continues quantitative tightening
The Bank of Canada today held its target for the overnight rate at 5%, with the Bank Rate at 5% and the deposit rate at 5%. The Bank is continuing its policy of quantitative tightening.
Global economic growth continues to slow, with inflation easing gradually across most economies. While growth in the United States has been stronger than expected, it is anticipated to slow in 2024, with weakening consumer spending and business investment. In the euro area, the economy looks to be in a mild contraction. In China, low consumer confidence and policy uncertainty will likely restrain activity. Meanwhile, oil prices are about $10 per barrel lower than was assumed in the October Monetary Policy Report (MPR). Financial conditions have eased, largely reversing the tightening that occurred last autumn.
The Bank now forecasts global GDP growth of 2% in 2024 and 2% in 2025, following 2023s 3% pace. With softer growth this year, inflation rates in most advanced economies are expected to come down slowly, reaching central bank targets in 2025.
In Canada, the economy has stalled since the middle of 2023 and growth will likely remain close to zero through the first quarter of 2024. Consumers have pulled back their spending in response to higher prices and interest rates, and business investment has contracted. With weak growth, supply has caught up with demand and the economy now looks to be operating in modest excess supply. Labour market conditions have eased, with job vacancies returning to near pre-pandemic levels and new jobs being created at a slower rate than population growth. However, wages are still rising around 4% to 5%.