Will CMHC Continue Condo Ownership Research?

In the past, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) was the source of information on buying a house. It meant good home-buying tips, reliable statistics, and the comfortable feeling that our “government” housing expert wouldn’t send us down the wrong path. CMHC was also the place we went for mortgage loan insurance; many of us were able to buy our first home thanks to CMHC.

That was then; this is now. Now we’re more likely to go to one of thousands of websites for home-buying tips. And although it is still a major provider of mortgage loan insurance, CMHC shares that role with others.

Now CMHC is attempting to bring back its authoritative voice after a damning report from CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal suggesting that Canadians know zip about the state of our own housing market.

As CMHC’s CEO, Evan Siddall, told the Globe and Mail: “We’ve been a little bit internally focused; we’ve been a little bit confined about the information we’ve shared with people.” So CMHC will undertake housing market research where data gaps exist.

Its first effort was a survey designed to redress a lack of data on condo ownership, released this past summer. The issue has been a hot button in many urban areas, where the booming condo scene has raised concerns about offshore ownership in the market.

Interestingly, the CMHC survey failed to address this issue. The survey found that of 42,426 Vancouver and Toronto households who owned condos last August and September, 17.1 percent were owned by investors. But it didn’t establish how many of these were foreign-owned.

Using CMHC’s figures, Tal figured the total is 5 percent. However, others believe it could be much higher, at least in Toronto; T.O. condo specialist Brad Lamb estimated it could be as high as 50 percent.

Most analysts are hoping for more specific ownership information from CMHC.