Changes to Mortgages Announced by Government of Canada

Mortgage insurance (which is sometimes called mortgage default insurance) is a credit risk management tool that protects lenders from losses on mortgage loans. If a borrower defaults on a mortgage, and the proceeds from the foreclosure of the property are insufficient to cover the resulting loss, the lender submits a claim to the mortgage insurer to recover its losses.

The law requires federally regulated lenders to obtain mortgage insurance on loans in which the homebuyer has made a down payment of less than 20 per cent of the purchase price (also called high loan-to-value loans). The homebuyer pays the premiums for this insurance, which protects the lender if the homebuyer defaults.

The Government backs insured mortgages in Canada. It is responsible for the obligations of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) as it is an agent Crown corporation. There are other companies that provide similar service; Genworth Financial and Canada Guaranty.

In October 2008, the Government adjusted its minimum standards for the mortgage insurance guarantee framework, including:

  • Fixing the maximum amortization period for new government-backed insured mortgages to 35 years.
  • Requiring a minimum down payment of 5%for new mortgages.
  • Establishing a consistent minimum credit score requirement.
  • Requiring the lender to make a reasonable effort to verify that the borrower can afford the loan payment.
  • Introducing new loan documentation standards to ensure that there is evidence of reasonableness of property value and the borrower’s sources and level of income.

In April 2010, the Government took additional measured steps to support the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market and continue to encourage home ownership for Canadians. Adjustments to the mortgage insurance guarantee framework included:

  • Requiring that borrowers meet the standards for a five-year fixed rate mortgage even if they choose a mortgage with a lower interest rate and shorter term.
  • Lowering the maximum amount Canadians can withdraw in refinancing their mortgages to 90 per cent from 95 per cent of the value of their homes.
  • Requiring a minimum down payment of 20 per cent on non-owner-occupied properties purchased for speculation.

Today, the Government announced three changes to the standards governing government-backed insured mortgages.

Limit the Maximum Amortization Period to 30 Years

The amortization period is the length of time it will take to pay off the entire mortgage loan. It is usually much longer than the term of the mortgage. A typical mortgage in Canada may have a term of five years or less during which a specific fixed or variable interest rate will apply, and the mortgage can be renewed at the end of the term.

The measure announced today will reduce the maximum amortization period from 35 years to 30 years. For any given mortgage loan, a lower amortization period would result in a moderate increase in the monthly payment along with a significant reduction in the total interest paid over the amortization period. To illustrate the effect of this change via a mortgage calculator, please visit

Lower the Maximum Refinancing Amount to 85 Per Cent of the Loan-to-Value Ratio

Borrowers can refinance their mortgage and increase the amount of the loan secured against their home. The measure announced today will reduce the limit on refinancing from 90 per cent to 85 per cent of the value of the home. Refinancing lowers the borrower’s equity in their home. Reducing the maximum loan-to-value ratio on refinancing will encourage Canadians to keep equity in their home and save through home ownership.

Withdraw Government Insurance Backing on Non-Amortizing Lines of Credit Secured by Homes

Under the current rules, a line of credit secured by the borrower’s home, such as a home equity line of credit, is limited to a maximum of 80 per cent of the value of the home. There has been a substantial increase in the credit available to Canadians through this type of secured line of credit over the past several years, and it is an important factor in the rise in overall household debt. These loans are generally non-amortizing, which means that borrowers are not required to make regular payments on the principal amount of the loan. Moreover, these loans are almost exclusively variable rate products, which expose borrowers to the impact of rising interest rates. Withdrawing government insurance backing on these non-amortizing products is consistent with the Government’s objective of supporting the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market.

Timelines for Moving to the New Framework

The adjustments to the maximum amortization period and the maximum refinancing amount will come into force on March 18, 2011. The withdrawal of government insurance backing on lines of credit secured by homes will come into force on April 18, 2011. Exceptions would be allowed after the new measures come into force where they are needed to satisfy a binding purchase and sale, financing or refinancing agreement entered into before the corresponding coming into force dates.

Please visit and complete your mortgage application today before these new guidelines take effect.

Jagdeep Singh

Jagdeep Singh

Real Estate Broker
CENTURY 21 Heritage Group Ltd., Brokerage*
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