Business

Q & A: Your questions on Canada's roaring real estate market

What do you want to know about real estate in Canada? CBC's Jacqueline Hansen hosted a Facebook Live to take your questions.

From worries over a correction to the impact of rent control, CBC viewers have many housing questions

Concerns about the stability of Canada's hot housing markets sparked questions from CBC viewers across the country. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

From rapidly rising house prices to sky-high rents, what's happening in Canada's housing markets is of major consequence to Canadians' lives. It's raising concerns for both prospective home buyers and current homeowners alike. 

In a Facebook Live with real estate analyst Alex Avery and personal finance columnist Ellen Roseman, we took CBC viewers' questions from across the country.


Here are a few highlights:

How do restrictive rent controls increase the availability of affordable housing?

Rent control rules — or a lack thereof — have been a major focus in Ontario, where CBC reported on tenants who received notice of a 100 per cent rent hike

On Thursday, the Ontario government announced that rent control rules that ended in 1991 will now be expanded. But as much as that can protect tenants from major rent increases, Avery says it can also dissuade developers from building purpose-built rental units.

"Rent control is, at best, a short-term measure," Avery said.

Avery, the author of The Wealthy Renter, said that previous rent control rules caused rental buildings to become rundown, as landlords had no incentive to reinvest. He says the diminished quality of rentals may have added to a negative stigma around renting.

Roseman agreed that Canadians could be more open to renting. Yes, bidding wars for good rentals can be frustrating, but the benefits of renting — being able to move more easily and diversify savings — can be substantial, she said.

"At least they have flexibility, and that's important," Roseman said.

The housing market in Canada has corrected before; what will it take for that to happen again?

There's increased concern that Canadians are taking on mortgages that they won't be able to handle when interest rates rise. Ultra-low interest rates have already begun to edge up, as interest rates in the U.S. rise, but there are other potential triggers that could impact house prices.

Roseman points to the fact that Canada's major housing markets are also hubs for job creation. If something happens to the job market and a large number people become unemployed, that can lead to a drop in house prices, she said.

Personal finance columnist Ellen Roseman and real estate market analyst Alex Avery take viewers' questions in a CBC Facebook Live. (CBC)

"All of a sudden, people lose their ability to buy a home and people who are in a home can't afford it," Roseman said.

Vancouver's housing market, once the hottest in the country, has cooled slightly over the past year. During that time, the province implemented a foreign buyers' tax. 

"That really spooked people's confidence," Avery said. "But when you look closely at the data, it appears as if the Vancouver market was already starting to soften before that was announced."

Many analysts say the jury is still out on how much the foreign buyers' tax had to do with it, but the data is still being collected and crunched.

Ultimately, Avery said, there's no way to pinpoint in advance what will trigger a housing market correction.

Why not provide incentives for people to move to smaller markets?

Ahead of Ontario's announcement of actions to address Toronto's hot housing market, analysts and economists weighed in on potential policy changes, including various taxes to target demand by speculators.

But why not incentivize people to move out of hot markets to decrease demand?

The reality, Roseman said, is that people are attracted to major cities for the employment opportunities. 

She also said that incentives would be short-term solutions; buying a house should be a long-term commitment.

"If you're buying a house, you're buying it for five years to make any money on it," Roseman said.

Plus, there's already a major incentive to live outside of hot housing markets like Toronto and Vancouver, according to Avery.

"It's a lot more affordable," Avery said.

About the Author

Jacqueline Hansen

Senior Business Reporter

Jacqueline Hansen is a senior business reporter for CBC News. Based in Toronto, she's been covering business and other news beats since 2010.

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