Evan Siddall, CEO & President, CMHC, Ottawa speaks about the business impact due to COVID19
How has COVID19 affected your business?
We understand that many Canadians are facing challenges because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Like many other government organizations, businesses and individuals, we are closely monitoring developments around COVID-19. Our primary focus remains the health and safety of our staff while ensuring the continuity of our operations
While the situation continues to evolve, we do not foresee an impact on our operations nor on our role in supporting financial stability through the provision of mortgage lending. Currently, we consider the risk to our business of the coronavirus outbreak to be low.
How are your teams working and communicating during such times?
CMHC’s workforce was already equipped to work remotely prior to the coronavirus outbreak. In 2019, CMHC adopted a “Results Only” work philosophy, along with the technology needed to support a mobile workforce. Given that remaining home and working remotely is a proven way to protect against virus transmission, the general risk to our employees and our business is mitigated.
Systems and processes have seen new changes. Do you feel the new way of working will change the way we worked in offices?
Our primary concern is the health of our employees and their families and that we all do our part to “flatten the curve”. Social separation is our best tool to protect seniors and the immuno-compromised. In time, this will pass — it’s up to us to help limit the impact.
As such, we have isolated redundant teams for critical functions. We are following local public health advice, including restricting our Ottawa office to truly essential personnel and asking everyone else to stay home.
We have convened a Crisis Management Committee to monitor events as they develop, to co-ordinate with other government agencies and to take action as required.
How are you helping your local community during such times?
These events remind us all how crucial it is to have a sanctuary. We believe that we all need a safe and affordable place to live. We have already extended mortgage forbearance for insured mortgages together with Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty. We are also exploring, with others, potential relief measures for those who cannot make payments on uninsured mortgages and renters.
At the first sign of financial difficulty, homeowners should call their lender’s default management department directly for details. CMHC and other mortgage insurers offer tools to lenders that can assist homeowners who may be experiencing financial difficulty. Our default management tools include:
a. payment deferral;
b. loan re-amoritization;
c. capitalization of outstanding interest arrears; and
d. other eligible expenses and special payment arrangements.
To further assist lenders, CMHC is providing increased flexibility to defer mortgage payments on homeowner CMHC-insured mortgage loans to borrowers who may be experiencing financial difficulties related to the outbreak. CMHC will permit lenders to allow payment deferral of up to six months, beginning immediately.
These events remind us all how crucial it is to have a sanctuary. We believe that we all need a safe and affordable place to live. The first defense for renters is income support measures. We expect any housing provider who has received funding or mortgage loan insurance from CMHC, either directly or through the provinces and territories, to act compassionately and refrain from evicting their fellow Canadians.
We expect landlords to suspend evictions. Please note that rental housing falls under provincial jurisdiction, under landlord-tenant legislation. You may wish to get in touch with the province for more specific information. Several provinces and territories, representing nearly all of Canada’s population (99.89%), have issued full or partial eviction bans.
The Government announced that CMHC will initiate a revised Insured Mortgage Purchase Program, a market liquidity tool we used in the Global Financial Crisis. The IMPP is part of a package that includes complementary market support activity from the Bank of Canada. We have scaled the solution to the problem and will have up to $150 billion available. We are also working with the government on expanding CMHC’s authorities if we need to do more.
This is a once in a lifetime event for all of us, do share your reason for optimism?
Our Ask of You: Just as we do, you have a very important role to play to help preserve our economy. We want to avoid adding undue pressure so you can focus your efforts on managing this crisis. Accordingly, we will suspend quality assurance reviews and other interventions until we return to a more normal state. Importantly, we also expect any housing provider who has received financing or support from CMHC, directly or via provinces and territories, to act compassionately and refrain from evictions.
CMHC exists in part to buffer the effects of these events. This is what we do. Our Crisis Management Committee is meeting daily and we are working around the clock. We are part of a federal team that works well, trusts each other and is earnestly and impressively working together for Canada.
You can count on us to do all that we can for you and for Canadians.