Ottawa tightens mortgage requirements and targets foreign money
October 4, 2016
Image: Finance Minister Morneau
Ottawa has announced new rules aimed at limiting foreign money into Canadian real estate and ensuring that borrowers take on mortgages they can afford."Overall, I believe the housing market is sound, but as minister of finance, I want to make sure we are proactive in assessing and addressing the factors that could lead to excess risk," Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in making the announcement Monday in Toronto.
They include a move to close a loophole in the tax laws that allows non-residents to buy homes in Canada, and then get a tax exemption to avoid paying capital gains when they sell the home by claiming it as a principal residence.
Starting now, "an individual who was not a resident in Canada in the year the individual acquired a residence will not be able to claim the exemption for that year," Morneau said.
Canadians who were legitimate residents at both the time of purchase and time of sale will still be able to take advantage of the principal residence tax exemption, Ottawa says.
Toronto real estate lawyer Bob Aaron says the move is a reasonable step to prevent tax leakage.
"There's a lot of people who are declaring their homes as principal residences when they're not," he said in an interview. "I think it's more of cracking down on the existing law rather than plugging a loophole."
In addition to cracking down on tax leakage by foreign money, another change is that from now on, all insured mortgages must undergo a "stress test" that ensures a borrower's ability to make their mortgage payments at a higher interest rate.
Effectively, that means borrowers will be tested against their ability to pay their mortgage if actual rates were as high as the big bank's five-year posted mortgage rates, which the Bank of Canada says currently average 4.64 per cent.
That requirement was already in place for many borrowers, including so-called "high-ratio" mortgages for people with small down payments, and borrowers who borrowed money on terms of less than five years.
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