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Canada's housing market sees largest improvement in affordability in four years: National Bank

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Canada’s housing market saw the largest improvement in affordability in nearly four years in the first quarter of 2023, according to a report from economists at the National Bank of Canada.

The report analyzes housing affordability in major census metropolitan areas, factoring in the prices of condos and other dwellings, as well as the real estate market as a whole.

It measures affordability by tracking the number of months a median-income household will need to save for the minimum down payment of an average-priced home, if they were to save 10 per cent of their income before tax.

The report states that housing affordability improved across the board in Canada’s 10 major census metropolitan areas in the first quarter — the first time this has happened in all markets in two and a half years.

The largest improvements occurred in Vancouver, which remains the least affordable Canadian city for buying a home, Hamilton and Toronto.

By contrast, Calgary, Edmonton, and Quebec saw the smallest increases in improvement, the report notes.

The average mortgage payment as a percentage of income (MPPI) registered at 60.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2023, down 3.2 points from the previous quarter and 5.4 points from the second quarter of 2022, when Canada’s housing market reached its most unaffordable level in more than 30 years.

The economists note that while the MPPI improved, it remains elevated and has not counteracted the huge rise in unaffordability observed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, it states that its benchmark five-year fixed rate mortgage used to calculate affordability declined 14 basis points.

Restrictive interest rates, a decrease in home prices and rising incomes were factors that led to the improvement in housing affordability, the report notes.

Looking ahead, National Bank says it’s expecting to see a “slight easing of pressure” on interest rates in the second quarter of 2023.

“That said, a stabilization in home prices is likely given the pickup in activity with sales increasing while listings have moderated,” the report’s authors state.

“However, we have doubts as to whether this price rise will be sustained, given restrictive monetary policy which is contributing to maintaining affordability at a challenging level.”

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