Trudeau Says New Mortgage Rules Cut Froth in Toronto, Vancouver

(Bloomberg) -- The Canadian government is monitoring whether tougher mortgage rules are having the desired effect but doesn’t favor allowing longer mortgage terms, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Trudeau, speaking to an industry group Thursday, was asked about raising the maximum amortization of a mortgage to 30 years, from 25 years, for first-time buyers. The prime minister said he opted instead to introduce a program that sees the government take a stake in some home purchases, as well as increasing the funds a buyer can take from retirement savings.

“We’re looking at things that are not going to disrupt the market in unexpected ways,” Trudeau said at the Canadian Home Builders’ Association conference in Niagara Falls. “We’re listening to everyone about their concerns and we are going to keep watching that stress test and make sure that it is having the desired effect, but we are seeing fewer and fewer people take on those overreaching debt-loads, particularly in the higher sectors of the market.”

Canada’s housing market has been a preoccupation of policymakers for years -- grappling with a surge in prices in Vancouver and Toronto, and fears that a bubble could develop. Officials have tightened mortgage eligibility rules and imposed other measures to curb runaway growth. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said this week he’s confident the sector will return to growth.

Trudeau said his government tried to take measures that would stabilize Vancouver and Toronto but not “have an overly negative impact elsewhere around the country.”

The tougher stress test for mortgage eligibility was about “taking some of the froth out of those markets but also ensuring that people weren’t stretching themselves further than was wise, particularly given the the fact that we can see interest rates rising in the future, and recognizing Canadians carry a high level of personal indebtedness that we need to respond to.”

He acknowledged the industry’s call for 30-year mortgages, but said “yes, it can lower your mortgage payments on a monthly level but actually, overall, increases the amount that you’re going to be paying out in interest over time. Which is why, when we looked at all the different measures we had, we really, really liked the shared equity program.”

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