Trudeau Says Housing Reforms Mean Fewer Overextended Canadians

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending his government’s tightening of mortgage eligibility rules, saying it’s aimed at protecting homebuyers from overextending themselves.

Trudeau was asked about the changes after the country’s central bank indicated this week rising interest rates and government measures are having a larger-than-expected impact on the housing market. The prime minister said the government is working to make housing of all categories more affordable, but there’s a risk.

“The flip side of it also is, as we saw from some the challenges in the United States around the last recession, people can overextend in buying their housing,” he said late Thursday at an event in Regina, Saskatchewan. “So we made some modest changes to mortgage rules that are making sure that people are not getting more vulnerable than they have to, by not being able to afford the houses that they’re looking for.”

The changes spurred a slowdown in sales and prices earlier this year in some markets that had been overheating, particularly Toronto and Vancouver. However, many of the rule changes apply nationally, raising the bar for home ownership everywhere including in energy-producing regions struggling with lower oil prices, such as Saskatchewan, where Trudeau was speaking.

Trudeau acknowledged concerns from the real estate industry, that “maybe we’re making it too hard to buy a new house, and that’s something that we are very alert to.” Still, he gave no indication the government was contemplating any reversal.

“We’re looking and collecting data, but I think we can all agree that we need to make sure Canadians don’t get saddled in mountains of debt if there is a recession or there is a housing collapse; we need to make sure that we are ensuring that people can afford their homes,” he said.

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