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40% of homeowners caught short on expenses this year, Manulife survey suggests

A new survey from Manulife Bank suggests that nearly 40 per cent of Canadians have struggled to cover their household expenses at least once in the past year.

28 per cent of survey respondents who own homes say housing is unaffordable where they are

Jeffrey Schwartz, of Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada, explains why some homeowners are mortgage poor 7:15

A new survey from Manulife Bank suggests that nearly 40 per cent of Canadians have struggled to cover their household expenses at least once in the past year.

Sixty-two per cent of those polled said they were never "caught short" without enough money in their bank account to cover expenses in the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, 24 per cent found themselves in that position once or twice in the past 12 months, 10 per cent were short on cash a few times a year and four per cent said they were caught short almost every month.

Lines of credit were the most popular solution for those who came up short, with 33 per cent reporting that they accessed one the last time they were short on funds.

1 in 4 think housing is unaffordable

The online survey conducted by Environics Research between July 22 and August 7 polled 2,372 homeowners across the country.

Respondents were between the ages of 20 to 59 and had a household income of at least $50,000.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, the polling industry's professional body, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error due to their lack of random sampling.

Many Canadians are house-poor, says one personal finance expert.

"It starts with their home and if they're spending too much on their living expenses, spending too much on their housing, that kind of has a domino effect on everything else," said Jeffrey Schwartz, of  Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada.

"They need that roof over their heads so they're going to pay the mortgage no matter what, but they do have other expenses throughout the month."

Too few Canadians have a rainy day fund of three to six months of earnings that could pay for a roof, a furnace or an unexpected car repair, Schwartz added.

"They are in trouble as soon as they have that unexpected expense." Too often, they turn to high interest credit cards to cover it, he said.

"The challenge faced by many Canadians is that their income is relatively stable from month-to-month, but their expenses can vary significantly," Rick Lunny, president and CEO of Manulife Bank of Canada, said in a statement.

"Access to rainy day savings or a low-cost line of credit are good options to safeguard against these fluctuations. However, if your backup plan is to carry high-interest credit card debt or borrow from a family member — you could be putting undue stress on your finances or relationships."

According to the bi-annual survey, 28 per cent of respondents found their local housing market "somewhat unaffordable", while another 11 per cent described it as "not affordable at all." Just over half (51 per cent) called housing in their area "somewhat affordable" and only one in ten felt housing in their area was "very affordable."

Perception of affordability varies by region, as homeowners in Canada's Atlantic provinces are most likely (83 per cent) to feel housing is affordable, while those in British Columbia are least likely (39 per cent).

With files from CBC News

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