UPDATE 3-Canada, fearing bubble, looks to cool housing market

Thu Jun 23, 2016 3:58pm EDT
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(Adds economists' comments)

By Ethan Lou

TORONTO, June 23 (Reuters) - With home prices booming and fears of a bubble, Canada's finance minister on Thursday announced a working group of federal, provincial and municipal officials to recommend policy changes.

The panel, to be formed within days, will meet throughout the summer to review supply and demand, affordability and the stability of the market, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in Toronto.

The move suggests a new round of regulation changes to tighten mortgage rules is not imminent, but could come as early as the fall amid fears the market is overheated and consumer indebtedness too high.

The government will evaluate whether further steps are needed to protect borrowers and lenders to help maintain a stable market, Morneau added.

He and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have both commented in recent weeks about high prices in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada's hottest markets, echoing concerns by some analysts who fear a housing bubble.

House prices have climbed since 2009 as low interest rates fueled demand. While the energy slump has cooled sales in oil country, the run-up in prices in Ontario and British Columbia have pushed consumer debt to record levels and increased worries that both consumers and housing are in precarious positions.

Some have called for a flipping tax to curb speculators from buying and selling houses. Some want limits imposed on foreign investment to prevent wealthy Chinese buyers, among others, from driving up prices, particularly in Vancouver.   Continued...