Foreign inflows are distorting Canada’s already constrained housing market and aren’t the kind of investment the country needs, the chief executive officer of Royal Bank of Canada said.
“We do not need foreign capital using Canadian real estate as a piggy bank,” David McKay, said Tuesday at a bank conference in New York hosted by the Toronto-based lender. “If capital is coming in to sit in a home, unproductively, and is distorting your marketplace and the livelihood of your residents — no thank you.”
McKay, whose bank is Canada’s largest mortgage lender, says he’s supportive of government taxes and other measures targeting foreign buyers, as well as other regulatory efforts to cool the country’s housing market. He’s seeing some impacts from these rule changes, with “a little bit more healthy dynamics.”
“Demand is down and house prices have been stable,” McKay said. “There’s still intensive bidding, but to a lesser degree.”
Toronto, Canada’s biggest housing market, has been correcting over the past few months amid a slew of regulations put in place to steady booming prices and increasing debt. Toronto home sales fell 35 per cent in February from a year earlier, marking the weakest month of sales in nine years, though benchmark prices were up 3.2 per cent on the year, according to data released Tuesday by the Toronto Real Estate Board.
Canada’s housing market has been on edge this year as mortgage guidelines came into effect, making it harder for prospective buyers to qualify for loans.
A surge of foreign money into Canadian housing had been adding “gasoline” to markets in Vancouver and Toronto, McKay said. He identified a “cocktail of factors” that led to unconstrained growth of Toronto and Vancouver home prices, including a growing population, land constraints, lack of supply and highly stimulative interest rates that caused people to funnel more disposable income into their homes in addition foreign money.