Home Ownership Offsets BC's High Cost of Living

Business in Vancouver
April 2, 2013

Regardless of whether local and/or foreign investors are to blame for BC's astronomical housing prices, anyone living in the province who's managed to buy into the market appears to be benefiting from the price of ownership.

Over the past year, inflation tied to owned accommodation in B.C. has fallen 2.25% and dropped 1.7% in Metro Vancouver as of February 2013, according to Statistics Canada.

Charts showing inflation of housing costs for owners vs renters 2000-2013

In the meantime, the cost of rental accommodation has risen 1.8% on average in B.C. and 3.2% in Metro Vancouver. Near-record-low mortgage rates and heightened competition between Canada's financial institutions have undoubtedly played a role in falling housing-related costs. For at least the past year, interest rates have remained highly affordable across the financing spectrum, especially for would-be homeowners (and "hated" real-estate investors). Many homeowners with mortgages up for renewal in the past few years have likely seen their rates drop and had the option of reducing their monthly payments.

While mainstream media pounced on Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's apparent displeasure with Manulife posting a 2.89% five-year mortgage rate to match BMO's rate at the time, insiders note that most financial institutions have been flirting around such a rate for months.

Until central banks start raising interest rates as the economy improves, financial institutions will continue to give rock-bottom interest rates to gain (or retain) market share.

Rising rates will likely erode the financial benefits of ownership eventually. But they won't come right away for mortgage holders who've locked in low rates for the next five to 10 years. Statistics Canada data shows that inflation tied to owned accommodation has risen 10.8% since January 2000, compared with a 15.2% increase for rented accommodation.

Charts showing rising costs of utilities and overall inflation rate

Of course, getting into the market in the first place has become increasingly challenging. In its latest study, StatsCan noted that home ownership among lower income families in Canada has fallen to 35% from 47% between 1981 and 2006. Although, ownership among single low-income people has risen to 17% from 9%.

That might help explain the flood of one-bedroom condos being built in Metro Vancouver.

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