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Vancouver home affordability has biggest drop in 26 years: RBC

Housing affordability in Vancouver had its biggest drop in 26 years during the first half of the year, but signs of cooling are beginning to show up there, and in Toronto, according to a new report from Royal Bank.
RBC says home affordability in Toronto and Vancouver has deteriorated to levels not seen since the early 1990s. (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

Housing affordability in Vancouver had its biggest drop in 26 years during the first half of the year, but signs of cooling are beginning to show up there, and in Toronto, according to a new report from Royal Bank.

The bank said its home affordability measure — the percentage of median pre-tax household income necessary to service the mortgage, property taxes and utilities for all categories of homes — hit 90.3 per cent for Vancouver by the end of June after surging by 6.6 percentage points in the first quarter and 6.1 percentage points in the second quarter.

The figure is even worse for a single-detached house, which now requires 126.8 per cent of median pre-tax income to carry.

"Clearly, owning a single-detached property at current prices in Vancouver is a luxury that very few locals can afford," the bank said.

In Toronto, the overall cost-of-ownership measure hit 60.2 per cent of median pre-tax income at the end of June, mainly due to a run-up in single-detached home costs.

RBC said the level of Toronto's aggregate affordability measure was the highest since the third quarter of 1990.

However, the bank's chief economist says signs of cooling resale activity have emerged in Vancouver and, more tentatively, in Toronto.

"We believe the blistering pace of property appreciation in both markets may slow by year-end," said Craig Wright.

"This likely won't help affordability in the near-term because of demand-supply tightness in the two markets at the present time, but some relief could arrive late this year or early in 2017," Wright said.

While housing affordability in other major Canadian cities generally eroded modestly in the latest period, some cities, including Calgary, Saint John, and St. John's saw some improvement.

In a separate report, TD Bank is forecasting the Vancouver and Toronto market will follow different short-term paths, with Vancouver expected to see a modest correction that would be driven, in part, by the introduction of the new tax on foreign buyers of property.

Sales activity in Vancouver is expected to drop by 10 to 15 per cent over the next six months, TD said, and it projects prices will decline by about 10 per cent in the region by mid-2017, before stabilizing later in the year. 

Toronto, meanwhile, is forecast to see some continued home price gains.

"Barring the levying of a similar tax, foreign investors could switch focus to the more affordable Toronto market," TD said.

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