Osfi Unveils New Stress-Test Rules

Canada’s banking regulator today unveiled the final changes to its mortgage underwriting standards—Guideline B-20—that will further tighten lending standards and affect borrowers and lenders alike.

The most wide-reaching change announced by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) is the establishment of a new minimum qualifying rate, or “stress test,” for borrowers making a down payment of more than 20% of the home’s value. Previously, stress test requirements only applied to insured mortgages (those with down payments of less than 20%) and most variable mortgages and terms less than five years.

The stress test requirement, which comes into effect on January 1, 2018, goes a step further than what was originally proposed by OSFI in July. Buyers with uninsured mortgages will need to prove that they can afford payments based on the greater of the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate (currently 4.89%) or their contract mortgage rate plus two percentage points.

“These revisions to Guideline B-20 reinforce a strong and prudent regulatory regime for residential mortgage underwriting in Canada,” Superintendent Jeremy Rudin said in a press release.

Earlier in the month Rudin hinted that significant changes were coming in order to address risks the regulator sees as a result of high household debt, and high real estate prices coupled with historically low interest rates.

“We are not waiting to see those risks crystallize in rising arrears and defaults,” he said in his October 3 speech.

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