February 23, 2012 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.
February 23, 2012 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.