Canada is considering subjecting private lenders to the same mortgage stress test rules faced by banks to prevent housing markets from being destabilized by the lenders’ rapid growth, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Private lenders currently account for approximately one-tenth of Canada’s $1.5 trillion mortgage market, and are still dwarfed by banks but their growth has accelerated since the new rules have been introduced. The B-20 rules that were introduced last January require banks to test the borrower’s ability to make repayments at 200 basist points above their contracted rate, and have resulted in more applications for loans being rejected.
As of now, private lenders are not subject to the B-20 rules because they are supervised by provincial regulations rather than the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the federal regulator. Bringing them under federal supervision would require a change in the law.
Two options were discussed, either the federal government would have to ask provinces to apply the B-20 guidelines themselves, private lenders would then also need to provide stress tests the same as the banks’, or the less severe alternative – to recommend provinces ensure private lenders run tighter checks on the ability of their borrowers to repay loans but stop short of imposing the actual stress test. A final decision has yet to be made.
Mortgage investment companies (MICs), have been the main driver of private lenders’ growth, picking up borrowers spurned by the banks. Lending up to 90 per cent of a property’s value, they typically charge borrowers an annual rate above 10 percent, sometimes as high as 15-20 compared with the 3-5 percent offered by banks.
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