BUSINESS

Household debt growing in Canada, but home values also rising: report

04/29/2015 03:27 EDT | Updated 08/05/2015 10:59 EDT
OTTAWA - The proportion of Canadian households in debt and the amount they owe has grown in recent years, according to a report by Statistics Canada.

The federal agency says the median debt-to-income ratio of Canadian families with debt was 1.10 in 2012, up from 0.78 in 1999.

That means the median family owed 110 per cent of its after-tax income in 2012, compared with 78 per cent in 1999.

The agency also said 35 per cent of families owed more than twice their annual after-tax income, compared with 23 per cent of Canadian families in 1999.

However, the median debt-to-asset ratio remained relatively stable over the period at 0.25 in 2012 compared with 0.27 in 1999.

Statistics Canada also said that while the data suggests Canadian families became more indebted over the period, they did so against a backdrop of rising asset values, notably real estate worth.

The Bank of Canada and others have long suggested that consumer debt remains a key risk to the economy.

Though the report only included results for Canadian debt up to 2012, more recent data suggests little has changed.

A prolonged period of historically low interest rates has helped boost household debt to record levels.

In a report last month, Statistics Canada said households in the fourth-quarter of last year owed about $1.63 in consumer credit, mortgage, and non-mortgage loans for every dollar of disposable income.

The report, issued Wednesday, found the percentage of Canadian families with debt was 71.1 per cent in 2012, up from 67.3 per cent in 1999.

The increase came as the median amount they owe grew over the same time period to $60,100, up from $36,700 when adjusted for inflation. However, rising home prices have helped median asset value climb to $405,200 in 2012, up from $225,400 in 1999.

"Such results suggest that the value of assets rose at least as rapidly as the value of debt for many Canadian families," Statistics Canada said.

"In fact, median assets increased by 80 per cent while median debt was up by 64 per cent."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story: A previous version had an erroneous time element; it also had an incorrect date for the debt-to-asset time period