The housing market in Vancouver is "uncomfortably hot", according to the latest RBC Housing Affordability Measure, while Toronto and Montreal are on pace to set records due to surging demand.
The report - which looks at housing costs based on owning a detached bungalow - said national affordability measures eroded slightly in the fourth quarter of 2009 but were mitigated by continued low mortgage rates and gains in household income.
"The extent of the deterioration [of affordability] will depend on the speed at which interest rates rise," the report said, adding the new mortgage rules coming into effect in April could reduce demand. "On that score, the pace of increase should be fairly steady throughout 2010 and 2011, helping to alleviate concerns of an imminent derailing of housing affordability in Canada."
While Vancouver had the most unfavourable conditions with house prices at record-high levels, Calgary saw affordability improve due to a lagging economy and the report said Ottawa had "the best of both worlds" with both strong activity and improving affordability. Atlantic Canada also saw favourable buyer conditions in the fourth quarter of 2009.