Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Affordability key to owning a home

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RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue, who was in Winnipeg last month for the MHBA Housing Forum, has co-authored a new study on factors affecting the ability to buy a home. While larger markets swayed the data, regional highlights are significant.

The paper, entitled afterwards, Housing Trends and Affordability, found a significant price separation in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver between single-family detached homes and condominiums. It's become increasingly difficult to find SFD homes in desirable locations in these three centres, thereby driving up prices. Given that condo construction makes up a large portion of the new-home starts in these cities, it's no surprise that the prices associated with these units have not risen as rapidly as single-family homes.

Sales in British Columbia continue to rebound from an exceptionally slow past couple of years. Affordability and ownership costs as a percentage of income, on the other hand, are at proportions not even fathomable by the average Manitoban. Although their costs of housing and home ownership in Alberta and Saskatchewan are also significantly higher than in Manitoba, their extremely strong economies can support these increased costs.

Manitoba affordable

Ontario appears to be dominated by Toronto trends. Single-family homes are becoming harder to afford while condominium prices remain within reach. Labour-market conditions and an uncertain economy in Quebec have hindered recent home sales. New-home sales in Atlantic Canada have been very slow this year in spite of affordability as good as anywhere in the country.

The RBC report confirmed that home-ownership costs as a share of household income continue to be lower in Manitoba than in the rest of the country. While they have surely risen here over the past 25 years, our province remains among the most affordable in Canada.

Briefly comparing prices, the average two-storey home in Manitoba is $60,000 less than in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and $130,000 less than in Ontario. A standard condominium is $40,000 less in Manitoba than Saskatchewan, $20,000 less than in Alberta and $65,000 less than in Ontario.

Given construction quality, energy efficiency, cost of home ownership, quality of living and affordability, Manitoba remains a great place to set down permanent roots and buy a home.

Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2013 F13

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