Ever since Canada’s housing market began swooning earlier this year, mortgage brokers, bankers and real estate agents have been busy telling us that the federal government is to blame, thanks to its tightening of mortgage lending rules this past June.

Never mind the evidence that the most overheated markets were already cooling by the time the mortgage rules were announced; never mind the rather extreme “coincidence” that our housing market began to slide just as we reached household debt levels similar to those seen in the U.S. and U.K. when their housing markets crashed. No; the real problem, according to the industry, is Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s reduction of government-insured mortgage amortization periods from 30 years to 25.

The latest group to double down on this argument is CAAMP, the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals. Its senior economist, Will Dunning, issued a report Monday declaring that “the changes to mortgage insurance criteria are unnecessarily jeopardizing the health of Canada’s housing markets and the broader economy.”

Stating that the “opinions being expressed by this author are his own, and are strongly-felt,” the report presents data to suggest the new rules have priced some percentage of prospective homebuyers out of the market.

According to Dunning’s estimates, if the new mortgage rules had been in place in 2010, 11 per cent of the high-ratio mortgages approved that year wouldn’t have been. A high-ratio mortgage is one where the buyer has put down less than 20 per cent as a down payment.

“The emerging (and, most likely, substantial and prolonged) housing market slowdown that is resulting from the changed criteria will tip markets into unbalanced states in which house prices are very likely to fall,” Dunning concludes.

And that is very bad news, Dunning argues, because of the knock-on effect on employment from a struggling construction sector. In the 2008 recession, "employment fell very sharply in Canada (and the US) in response to drops in housing values and stock markets," Dunning notes.

There's good reason to believe that this housing slowdown could have an even more exaggerated impact on jobs. According to a report at Bloomberg, construction jobs amounted to more than 7.4 per cent of all employment in Canada in April of this year. In the U.S. at the peak of its housing bubble, construction jobs never exceeded six per cent of all employment. (They stand at 4.2 per cent today.)

But Dunning’s warning about the economic dangers of an overheated housing market could just as easily be an argument for Flaherty’s mortgage rule changes as they are an argument against them. If the economy stands to be devastated by a housing slowdown, then the best thing to do is to stop the overheating as soon as possible — or face an ever larger crash. This is what the mortgage rule changes were meant to accomplish.

And the effect of the mortgage rule changes is really no more than what one would expect to see with a fairly small hike in interest rates.

Right now, a 25-year mortgage at three per cent interest on a $350,000 house (the average price in Canada right now) would cost you $1,656 per month, according to TD Bank’s rate calculator. If the rate went up to four per cent, the payment would jump nearly $200 per month, to $1,847.

According to estimates, the new mortgage rules would jump housing payments on average by $140, due to the shorter repayment periods. In other words, the new mortgage rules have less of an impact on affordability than a one-per-cent interest rate hike.

This is what the real estate industry is freaking out about and blaming Flaherty for — the equivalent of a small hike in interest rates.

And yet Dunning’s report asserts that “Canadian mortgage borrowers and lenders have been prudent and there is very substantial room to absorb higher interest rates.”

Really? Really?! Our household debt burden is now 163 per cent of household income, a record high and a higher level, slightly, than what the U.S. and U.K. saw before their housing market collapsed.

So how is it that Canadians have room for more debt, when the same debt levels in the U.S. and Britain proved to be unsustainable?

The truth is, Canadians don’t have room for more debt. And the contradictory argument that they can handle higher interest rates but not tougher mortgage rules is proof that the blame-the-mortgage-rules argument doesn’t hold water.

Our housing market isn’t experiencing what Dunning calls a “policy-induced housing slowdown.” It’s experiencing fatigue from excessively high debt levels, and a long run-up in prices, combined with general weakness in the job market and unimpressive wage gains.

Yet it seems the industry will continue to maintain that the blame for the housing market slowdown lies not with the irrational exuberance of a housing bubble, but with the entirely rational efforts to fix it.

With earlier reporting

Related on HuffPost:

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  • 10: New York City - 6.2

    The number shown is the housing affordability ratio -- a measure that shows how much a median home costs relative to median incomes in a given city. Historically, a typical ratio has been around three. Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • 9: Auckland, New Zealand - 6.4

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • Adelaide, Australia - 6.7

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • San Francisco - 6.7

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • London - 6.9

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • San Jose, California - 6.9

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • Melbourne, Australia - 8.4

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • Sydney - 9.2

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • Vancouver - 10.6

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>

  • Hong Kong - 12.6

    Source: Demographia, <a href="http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf" target="_hplink"><em>8th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey</em></a>


Loading Slideshow...
  • Canadian Household Debt By Region

  • 6. Atlantic Canada: $69,300

    Number represents the average among those households that carry debt. Source: <a href="http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2012002/article/11636-eng.pdf" target="_hplink">Statistics Canada</a>

  • 5. Quebec: $78,900

    Number represents the average among those households that carry debt. Source: <a href="http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2012002/article/11636-eng.pdf" target="_hplink">Statistics Canada</a>

  • 4. Manitoba & Saskatchewan: $84,900

    Number represents the average among those households that carry debt. Source: <a href="http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2012002/article/11636-eng.pdf" target="_hplink">Statistics Canada</a>

  • 3. Ontario: $124,700

    Number represents the average among those households that carry debt. Source: <a href="http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2012002/article/11636-eng.pdf" target="_hplink">Statistics Canada</a>

  • 2. British Columbia: $155,500

    Number represents the average among those households that carry debt. Source: <a href="http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2012002/article/11636-eng.pdf" target="_hplink">Statistics Canada</a>

  • 1. Alberta: $157,700

    Number represents the average among those households that carry debt. Source: <a href="http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2012002/article/11636-eng.pdf" target="_hplink">Statistics Canada</a>

  • Also On HuffPost:

    THE 10 COUNTRIES DEEPEST IN DEBT

  • 10. United Kingdom

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 80.9 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $1.99 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $35,860 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $2.46 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 8.4 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aaa Although the UK has one of the largest debt-to-GDP ratios among developed nations, it has managed to keep its economy relatively stable. The UK is not part of the eurozone and has its own independent central bank. The UK's independence has helped protect it from being engulfed in the European debt crisis. Government bond yields have remained low. The country also has retained its Aaa credit rating, reflecting its secure financial standing. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 9. Germany

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 81.8 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $2.79 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $37,591 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $3.56 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 5.5 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aaa As the largest economy and financial stronghold of the EU, Germany has the most interest in maintaining debt stability for itself and the entire eurozone. In 2010, when Greece was on the verge of defaulting on its debt, the IMF and EU were forced to implement a 45 billion euro bailout package. A good portion of the bill was footed by Germany. The country has a perfect credit rating and an unemployment rate of just 5.5 percent, one of the lowest in Europe. Despite its relatively strong economy, Germany will have one of the largest debt-to-GDP ratios among developed nations of 81.8 percent, according to Moody's projections. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 8. France

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 85.4 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $2.26 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $33,820 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $2.76 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 9.9 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aaa France is the third-biggest economy in the EU, with a GDP of $2.76 trillion, just shy of the UK's $2.46 trillion. In January, after being long-considered one of the more economically stable countries, Standard & Poor's downgraded French sovereign debt from a perfect AAA to AA+. This came at the same time eight other euro nations, including Spain, Portugal and Italy, were also downgraded. S&P's action represented a serious blow to the government, which had been claiming its economy as stable as the UK's. Moody's still rates the country at Aaa, the highest rating, but changed the country's outlook to negative on Monday. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 7. United States

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 85.5 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $12.8 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $47,184 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $15.13 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 8.3 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aaa U.S. government debt in 2001 was estimated at 45.6 percent of total GDP. By 2011, after a decade of increased government spending, U.S. debt was 85.5 percent of GDP. In 2001, U.S. government expenditure as a percent of GDP was 33.1 percent. By 2010, is was 39.1 percent. In 2005, U.S. debt was $6.4 trillion. By 2011, U.S. debt has doubled to $12.8 trillion, according to Moody's estimates. While Moody's still rates the U.S. at a perfect Aaa, last August Standard & Poor's downgraded the country from AAA to AA+. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 6. Belgium

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 97.2 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $479 billion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $37,448 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $514 billion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 7.2 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aa1 Belgium's public debt-to-GDP ratio peaked in 1993 at about 135 percent, but was subsequently reduced to about 84 percent by 2007. In just four years, the ratio has risen to nearly 95 percent. In December 2011, Moody's downgraded Belgium's local and foreign currency government bonds from Aa1 to Aa3. In its explanation of the downgrade, the rating agency cited "the growing risk to economic growth created by the need for tax hikes or spending cuts." In January of this year, the country was forced to make about $1.3 billion in spending cuts, according to The Financial Times, to avoid failing "to meet new European Union fiscal rules designed to prevent a repeat of the eurozone debt crisis." <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 5. Portugal

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 101.6 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $257 billion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $25,575 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $239 billion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 13.6 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Ba3 Portugal suffered greatly from the global recession -- more than many other countries -- partly because of its low GDP per capita. In 2011, the country received a $104 billion bailout from the EU and the IMF due to its large budget deficit and growing public debt. The Portuguese government now "plans to trim the budget deficit from 9.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 4.5 percent in 2012 and to the EU ceiling of 3 percent in 2013," according Business Week. The country's debt was downgraded to junk status by Moody's in July 2011 and downgraded again to Ba3 on Monday. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 4. Ireland

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 108.1 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $225 billion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $39,727 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $217 billion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 14.5 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Ba1 Ireland was once the healthiest economy in the EU. In the early 2000s, it had the lowest unemployment rate of any developed industrial country. During that time, nominal GDP was growing at an average rate of roughly 10 percent each year. However, when the global economic recession hit, Ireland's economy began contracting rapidly. In 2006, the Irish government had a budget surplus of 2.9 percent of GDP. In 2010, it accrued a staggering deficit of 32.4 percent of GDP. Since 2001, Ireland's debt has increased more than 500 percent. Moody's estimates that the country's general government debt was $224 billion, well more than its GDP of $216 billion. Moody's rates Ireland's sovereign debt at Ba1, or junk status. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 3. Italy

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 120.5 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $2.54 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $31,555 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $2.2 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 8.9 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> A3 Italy's large public debt is made worse by the country's poor economic growth. In 2010, GDP grew at a sluggish 1.3 percent. This was preceded by two years of falling GDP. In December 2011, the Italian government passed an austerity package in order to lower borrowing costs. The Financial Times reports that according to consumer association Federconsumatori, the government's nearly $40 billion package of tax increases and spending cuts will cost the average household about $1,500 each year for the next three years. On Monday, Moody's downgraded Italy's credit rating to A3, from A2. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 2. Greece

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 168.2 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $489 billion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $28,154 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $303 billion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 19.2 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Ca Greece became the poster child of the European financial crisis in 2009 and 2010. After it was bailed out by the rest of the EU and the IMF, it appeared that matters could not get any worse. Instead, Greece's economy has continued to unravel, prompting new austerity measures and talks of an even more serious default crisis. In 2010, Greece's debt as a percent of GDP was 143 percent. Last year, Moody's estimates Greece's debt increased to 163 percent of GDP. Greece would need a second bailout worth 130 billion euro -- the equivalent of roughly $172 billion -- in order to prevent the country from defaulting on its debt in March. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 1. Japan

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 233.1 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $13.7 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $33,994 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $5.88 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 4.6 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aa3 Japan's debt-to-GDP ratio of 233.1 percent is the highest among the world's developed nations by a large margin. Despite the country's massive debt, it has managed to avoid the type of economic distress affecting nations such as Greece and Portugal. This is largely due to Japan's healthy unemployment rate and population of domestic bondholders, who consistently fund Japanese government borrowing. Japanese vice minister Fumihiko Igarashi said in a speech in November 2011 that "95 percent of Japanese government bonds have been financed domestically so far, with only 5 percent held by foreigners." Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has proposed the doubling of Japan's 5 percent national sales tax by 2015 to help bring down the nation's debt. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>



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