Bank of Canada Review Article

  • February 23, 2012

    What Explains Trends in Household Debt in Canada?

    Similar to the experiences in many other countries, household indebtedness in Canada has exhibited an upward trend over the past 30 years. Both mortgage and non-mortgage (consumer) credit have contributed to this development. In this article, the authors use microdata to highlight the main factors underlying the strong trend increase since the late 1990s. Favourable housing affordability, owing to factors such as income growth and low interest rates, has supported significant increases in home-ownership rates and mortgage debt. Much of the rise in consumer credit has been facilitated by higher housing values (used as collateral for loans) and financial innovation that makes it easier for households to access this credit.
    Content Type(s): Publications, Bank of Canada Review Article Topic(s): Credit and credit aggregates JEL Code(s): D, D1, D12, D14, E, E5, E51
  • February 23, 2012

    Household Borrowing and Spending in Canada

    Understanding how much of the increased debt load of Canadian households has been used to finance household spending on consumption and home renovation is important for the conduct of monetary policy. In this article, the authors use a comprehensive data set that provides information on the uses of debt by Canadian households. They first present some facts regarding the evolution of Canadian household debt over the period from 1999 to 2010, emphasizing the increased importance of debt flows that are secured by housing. They then explore how Canadian households have used their borrowed funds over the same period, and assess the role of these borrowed funds in financing total consumption and spending on home renovation. Finally, they examine the possible effects of a decline in house prices on consumption when housing equity is used as collateral against household indebtedness.
  • February 23, 2012

    Medium-Term Fluctuations in Canadian House Prices

    This article draws on theory and empirical evidence to examine a number of factors behind movements in Canadian house prices. It begins with an overview of the movements in house prices in Canada, using regional data to highlight factors that influence prices over the long run. It then turns to the central theme, that there are medium-run movements in prices not accounted for by long-run factors. Drawing on recent Bank of Canada research, the article discusses several factors behind these medium-run movements, including interest rates, expected price appreciation and market liquidity. The article concludes by identifying areas for future research that would further our understanding of fluctuations in house prices.
  • February 23, 2012

    Household Insolvency in Canada

    With increasing levels of household debt in recent years, the number of households that may be vulnerable to a negative economic shock is rising as well. Decisions made by both the debtor and the creditor can contribute to insolvency. This article presents some stylized facts about insolvency in Canada’s household sector and analyzes the role of creditors in insolvencies. The average debt of an individual filing for bankruptcy is more than 1.5 times that of an average Canadian household; bankruptcy filers tend to be unemployed or in low-wage jobs, and are typically renters. The article reports that banks that approve more loans per branch, which is interpreted as less-intensive use of soft information (such as the loan officer’s assessment of the applicant’s character), experience more client bankruptcies. This finding has important policy implications, because financial institutions that do not use soft information risk further deterioration in their lending portfolios.

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