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Bank of Canada takes stance on housing bubble

A Bank of Canada official called talks of a Canadian housing bubble premature in a speech in Edmonton Monday, adding higher interest rates are not the solution to cooling the current surge in housing demand and prices. 

"If the bank were to raise interest rates to cool the housing market now - when inflation is expected to remain below target for the next year and a half - we would, in essence, be dousing the entire Canadian economy with cold water, just as it emerges from recession," said David Wolf, an advisor to Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney. "As a result, it would take longer for economic growth to return to potential and for inflation to get back to target."

The central bank's comments came on the heels of the CMHC's latest report on housing starts, which showed a 6.6 per cent jump in urban starts across Canada compared to November. They also follow federal finance minister Jim Flaherty's recent comments about introducing new rules to cool the housing market.

In his speech, Wolf said housing bubbles are usually caused by credit expansion as opposed to temporary factors like low interest rates and pent-up demand, and these factors cannot continue to sustain the high numbers of sales and prices seen in Canada over the past few months. Wolf also said the central bank is monitoring the housing market closely, adding it required "vigilance, not alarm."

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