Privatized CMHC? Potential impacts on buyers & landlords

The government could eventually remove itself from the mortgage insurance game -- an assertion Jim Flaherty reiterated recently, only weeks after becoming what may be the first finance minister to seriously suggest it.

"Is it inevitable that the government, the people of Canada, will always own the residential mortgage insurance company?" Flaherty told the Senate banking committee “The answer to that is no, it's not inevitable that that will be forever owned by the people of Canada because it's not an essential service.”

"I think there is a role to regulate but whether we, the Canadian people, have to be the owners and shareholders of a financial institution to do this is a question,” Flaherty told reporters. “Over time, I don't think it's essential that a government financial institution provide mortgage insurance in Canada.”

Flaherty's comments have amplified speculation that the Conservatives are intent upon eventually creating a CMHC that operates entirely without government backing. Flaherty is also echoing the suggestions of economists from the right-leaning CD Howe Institute, long-time advocates the government abandon its role as CMHC back-stop.

That kind of step back would end the Crown corp’s six-decades-long history in that position at the same time, charge some brokers, threatens the ability of qualified Canadians – especially first-time buyers -- to get into their own homes.

To the extent that move makes it harder for Canadians to buy, say analysts, is the extent to which landlords will benefit from an expansion of the rental market.

Adapted from Canadian Real Estate Magazine