What Is the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation?

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is a division of the Government of Canada that acts as Canada's national housing agency. CMHC's mandate is to help Canadians access a variety of affordable housing options. It also researches housing and real estate trends in Canada and around the world, providing research to consumers, businesses and other government divisions.

Understanding Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

CMHC was created in 1946 as the successor to the Wartime Housing Corporation and was known as Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation until 1979. As a federal crown corporation, CMHC is responsible for administering Canada’s National Housing Act and is accountable to Parliament through the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. Although CMHC is fully owned by the Canadian government, it operates like a private sector corporation, with a president reporting to an independent board of directors. The Canadian government appoints CMHC’s president and board of directors.

CMHC’s primary activity is mortgage loan insurance, which insures approved lenders, such as Canada's chartered banks, against borrower default. Mortgage loan insurance provides approved borrowers with access to low-cost mortgage rates and is required for regulated lenders when a home buyer has less than a 20% down payment. Since the National Housing Act and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act were modified in 1999, CMHC has enabled approved buyers to purchase property with as little as a 5% downpayment, which makes purchasing a home easier for first-time homebuyers.

One in three Canadians receives some form of help from the CMHC in financing or purchasing a home. CMHC provides support to Canadians in housing need, including Aboriginal and First Nations communities, and contributes to the stability of the financial system and housing market. The agency also provides valuable financing help to consumers, housing professionals, mortgage financiers, real estate investors and parties interested in learning about the Canadian housing market.

CMHC’s Recent Activity

In 2005, CMHC introduced a 10% “green refund” on mortgage loan insurance premiums for homeowners who buy or build energy-efficient homes, or who make energy-saving improvements to existing homes. According to its 2017 Annual Report, CMHC invested $3.2 billion that year toward creating housing units for low- and middle-income Canadians and provided mortgage loan insurance for more than 250,000 homes, 65% of which supported first-time homebuyers. CMHC also recently announced Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy, aimed at reducing chronic homelessness by 50% and removing over 500,000 households from housing need.