Want to own a home in Vancouver? You now need an income of $211,000

By: Lisa Coxon on December 21, 2018

The qualifying income for home ownership in Vancouver, Victoria, and Toronto was already high, but it’s surged in the last three years, according to RBC’s latest Housing Trends and Affordability Report.

In the third quarter, the qualifying income for home ownership in Vancouver rose by 66% — or $84,000. In Toronto, it increased by $64,000. In Victoria? It rose by $68,000.

In order to clear the mortgage stress test and be able to afford home ownership costs, which include mortgage payments, utilities, and property taxes, those living in Vancouver needed an income of $211,000. Torontonians needed to make $167,000, and those in Victoria needed $154,000.

These numbers were striking enough to prompt RBC to pose this question in its report: “Are only the rich able to buy a home these days?” What’s most concerning is that the bank seems to believe that in Canada’s most expensive markets, the answer is yes.

“Buyers in Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria needed between two and three times the median household income to qualify to purchase an average home,” the report states.

The mortgage stress test, introduced back in January, is one of a few factors that have contributed to this increase in qualifying income. The stress test, which was introduced by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, has made it so that those applying for a mortgage have to prove they can afford that mortgage at a significantly higher interest rate than their offered or negotiated-upon rate.

In Vancouver, the stress test alone made it so that another $36,000 was needed in order to buy a home at the city's average home price — $1.1 million. In Toronto, the test added $27,000 to the qualifying income for an average home worth $857,000. And in Victoria, the test piled on another $25,000 in order to afford an average home worth $813,000.

“Thousands of dollars more in income are now needed to buy a home with a mortgage in every market across the country because of the stress test,” the report says.

But the stress test wasn’t the only thing to blame. Higher home prices have also contributed to the increase in qualifying income, as has the Bank of Canada’s five overnight interest rate hikes since July 2017, which have made it more expensive to take out a variable-rate mortgage.

In today’s report, RBC predicted the BoC will raise its overnight rate two more times in 2019, which will continue to put pressure on ownership costs.

In the third quarter, Canadians needed to dedicate 53.9% of their household income to cover home ownership costs.

Here’s the percentage of household income that homeowners had to devote to ownership costs in Canada’s major cities:

  • Vancouver: 86.9%
  • Toronto: 75.3%
  • Montreal: 45.2%
  • Calgary: 43.4%
  • Ottawa: 38.6%
  • Edmonton: 28.2%