Pattie Lovett-Reid: Canada’s household debt is rising – but so are the value of assets
While Canada’s average household debt continues to climb so, too, is the country’s net worth.
A report released Tuesday by the Fraser Institute points out that while Canada boasts $2 trillion in total household debt, Canadian household assets - including real estate, pensions, investments and more – was $12.3 trillion in 2016.
The $10.3-trillion gap between the two figures is Canada’s household net worth and it, too, hit an all-time high last year.
“Despite alarmist headlines, concerns about Canadian household debt levels can be overblown,” Livio Di Matteo, senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, wrote in the report.
“When looking at debt levels it’s important to consider the degree to which Canadians are also using it to increase their net worth.”
Mortgages comprised the bulk of Canadians’ household debt in 2016, accounting for 65.5 per cent. Despite the hot housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto, however, that percentage remained unchanged from the country’s total household debt in 1990.
Di Matteo also notes that the rise in debt does not mean Canadians are spending “irresponsibly,” despite the average household debt load ballooning to 170 per cent of average disposable income from 90 per cent in 1990.
“Household debt growth can be a rational response to falling interest rates,” he wrote. “For instance, the Bank of Canada rate fell dramatically from nearly 13 per cent in 1990 to 0.5 per cent at the end of last year. Not surprisingly, as the cost of borrowing has dropped, Canadian households have borrowed more.”