Department of Finance Announcement

General Rob Skoko 16 Feb

Canada’s Housing Market Remains Strong

Canada’s housing market remains healthy and stable. According to the International Monetary Fund, our housing market is fully supported by sound economic factors, such as low interest rates, rising incomes and a growing population. Moreover, mortgage arrears—overdue mortgage payments—have also remained low.

Today’s announcement is part of the Government’s policy of proactively adjusting to developments in the housing market that could take root and cause instability. These steps are timely, targeted and measured, and will reinforce the importance of Canadians borrowing responsibly and using home ownership as a savings mechanism.

Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance (which is sometimes called mortgage default insurance) is a credit risk management tool that protects lenders from losses on mortgage loans. If a borrower defaults on a mortgage, and the proceeds from the foreclosure of the property are insufficient to cover the resulting loss, the lender submits a claim to the mortgage insurer to recover its losses.

The law requires federally regulated lenders to obtain mortgage insurance on loans in which the homebuyer has made a down payment of less than 20 per cent of the purchase price (also called high loan-to-value ratio loans). The homebuyer pays the premium for this insurance, which protects the lender if the homebuyer defaults.

The Government ultimately backs most insured mortgages in Canada. It is responsible for the obligations of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) as it is an agent Crown corporation. In order for private mortgage insurers to compete with CMHC, the Government backs private mortgage insurers’ obligations to lenders, subject to a deductible equal to 10 per cent of the original principal amount of the loan.

In October 2008, the Government adjusted its minimum standards for government-backed, high-ratio mortgages, including:

  • Fixing the maximum amortization period for new government-backed mortgages to 35 years.
  • Requiring a minimum down payment of five per cent for new government-backed mortgages.
  • Establishing a consistent minimum credit score requirement.
  • Requiring the lender to make a reasonable effort to verify that the borrower can afford the loan payment.
  • Introducing new loan documentation standards to ensure that there is evidence of reasonableness of property value and of the borrower’s sources and level of income.

Measures Announced Today

Today, the Government announced three changes to the standards governing government-backed mortgages.

Qualifying at a Five-Year Rate

Current interest rates are at record low levels, which has improved the affordability of housing for Canadians. It is important that Canadians borrow prudently and are able to manage their debt loads when interest rates rise.

Lender and mortgage insurers look at two key ratios when assessing the ability of a borrower to make payments on a mortgage loan:

  • Gross Debt Service (GDS) ratio—the ratio of the carrying costs of the home, including the mortgage payment, taxes and heating costs, to the borrower’s income.
  • Total Debt Service (TDS) ratio—the ratio of the carrying costs of the home and all other debt payments to the borrower’s total income.

Currently, the interest rate used to determine the mortgage payment for these calculations is either the rate fixed for the term of the mortgage or, in the case of a variable-rate mortgage and mortgages with terms of less than three years, the greater of the contract rate and the prevailing three-year fixed rate.

The adjustments to the mortgage framework will require mortgage insurers to ensure that borrowers qualify for their mortgage amount using the greater of the contract rate or the interest rate for a five-year fixed rate mortgage when calculating the GDS and TDS ratios.

This measure is intended to protect Canadians by providing them with additional flexibility to support mortgage payments at higher interest rates in the future.

Limit the Maximum Refinancing Amount to 90 per cent of the Loan-to-Value Ratio

Borrowers seeking financial flexibility can currently refinance their mortgage and increase the amount they are borrowing on the security of their home up to a limit of 95 per cent of the value of the property. This type of refinancing lowers the borrower’s equity in their home. The adjustments today will lower the maximum amount of the mortgage loan in a refinancing of a government-backed high ratio mortgage loan to 90 per cent of the value of the property, consistent with the principle that home ownership is a tool for savings.

Discouraging Speculation by Requiring a Minimum Down Payment of 20 per cent for non-owner-occupied properties

This measure will require a minimum down payment of 20 per cent for government-backed mortgage insurance on non-owner-occupied properties purchased for speculation. Currently, borrowers may purchase a residential property with a 5 per cent down payment. Today’s change will require a 20 per cent down payment for small (i.e., 1- to 4-unit) non-owner-occupied residential rental properties. Borrowers purchasing owner-occupied residential properties which also include some rental units (e.g., borrowers purchasing a duplex to live in one unit and rent out the other) will still be able to access government-backed mortgage insurance with a 5 per cent down payment.

Moving to the New Framework

These adjustments to the mortgage insurance guarantee framework are intended to come into force on April 19, 2010. Exceptions would be allowed after April 19 where they are needed to satisfy a binding purchase and sale, financing, or refinancing agreement entered into before April 19, 2010.

Information on HST

General Rob Skoko 8 Feb

On July 23, 2009, British Columbia announced its plans to implement a Harmonized Sales Tax (“H.S.T.”) for B.C. effective July 1, 2010. The H.S.T. is a combination of the 7% Provincial Sales Tax (“P.S.T.”) with the 5% federal Goods and Services Tax (“G.S.T.”) for a single sales tax rate of 12%.

For consumers, goods and services (with some exceptions) will be subject to the H.S.T. in the same manner as they are currently subject to GST. This applies to real estate as well.

For both used and new homes, there are some extra costs for buyers or sellers but these are for the services required to buy or sell, not on the price of the home.

Buyers of used residential real estate can expect to pay H.S.T. on items such as home inspectors, appraisals and other such services. Lawyer fees will not change as they have been forced to charge P.S.T. for years.

Sellers of used residential real estate can expect to pay H.S.T. on realtor commissions, and any other services they may use (we can’t think of any).

H.S.T. has different implications for used residential real estate and new residential real estate. There are also different rules for commercial properties, mobile homes and other types of real estate. Below is an explanation of each situation.

There is no H.S.T. on the price of used residential real estate, much like the current rules regarding G.S.T. There are no extra closing costs on the purchase or sale of a used residential house, subject to the comments above.

Here is where the costs will increase.

H.S.T. will be payable on the sale of new or substantially renovated homes, where the Contract of Purchase and Sale was entered into after November 18, 2009 and both ownership and possession of the home is transferred after June, 2010. H.S.T. will not be payable on sales of newly constructed or substantially renovated homes where ownership or possession of the home is transferred before July 2010, or where the Contract of Purchase and Sale is dated prior to November 18, 2009.

New Housing Rebate
The Provincial Government is proposing a New Housing Rebate (“the Rebate”) to ensure that purchasers of homes priced up to $525,000 would pay no more tax, on average, than under the current P.S.T.

The Rebate is 71.43% of the provincial component of the H.S.T. paid, up to a maximum of $26,250.00.

To illustrate this, let’s assume a purchaser is purchasing a new home for $500,000.00.



Current Tax Payable

Proposed Tax Payable
Purchase Price $ 500,000.00 $ 500,000.00
G.S.T. $ 25,000.00 $ 25,000.00
H.S.T. additional tax $ 35,000.00
Rebate of H.S.T. (71.43% of H.S.T. additional tax) $ 25,000.50
Total Purchase Price $ 525,000.00 $ 534,999.50

Note that in the above example the purchaser is paying about $10,000 more with the H.S.T. This is approximately 2% more than under the current G.S.T.

The government states that while sales of new homes in B.C. are not directly subject to the P.S.T., building materials used in the construction of homes are subject to the 7% P.S.T. The total amount of P.S.T., on average, embedded in the selling price of a new home is estimated to be equal to two percent. As a result, the government claims that purchasers of homes priced up to $525,000 would pay no more tax, on average, than under the current P.S.T. This of course assumes that the price of homes drop 2% due to the elimination of P.S.T. on building supplies.

Note also that the maximum rebate is $26,250.00. This means that the extra tax will increase dramatically for homes over $525,000.00. Consider the following example for a home priced at $900,000.00.


Current Tax Payable

Proposed Tax Payable
Purchase Price $ 900,000.00 $ 900,000.00
G.S.T. $ 45,000.00 $ 45,000.00
H.S.T. additional tax $ 63,000.00
Rebate of H.S.T. (maximum of $26,250.00) $ 26,250.00
Total Purchase Price $ 945,000.00 $ 981,750.00

Using the above example, the purchaser of a new home priced at $900,000 will pay an additional $36,750.00 with the imposition of the H.S.T.

The new housing rebates would be federally administered in a manner similar to the G.S.T. rebates for new housing. Individuals would be able to file an application for the rebate directly with the Canada Revenue Agency. However, in the case of homes sold by the builder, similar to the G.S.T. new housing rebates, the builder would have the option of paying or crediting the new housing rebate to the purchaser at the time of purchase.

Other rebates
New housing rebates would be available for the provincial component of the H.S.T. paid for all types of housing eligible for G.S.T. new housing rebates. This includes rebates for the following:

New housing rebate – for purchasers of new houses together with leased land
New housing rebate – for purchasers of new mobile homes and floating homes
New housing rebate – for houses acquired through the purchase of qualifying shares in a housing co-op
New housing rebate – for owner-built homes
New rental housing rebates

Rather than retyping the government announcement on these rebates, please visit This has complete details on all of the above rebates. It also has information on rentals of new homes by builder-landlords and purchaser-landlords, as well as transitional rebates for partially constructed homes.

We have been unable to find information related to the change in use of properties (primarily short term rental property).

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for individual advice regarding your own situation.