Household debt numbers spiralling out of control

Canadians household debt is continuing to rise.

There are new calls going out for people to control their household debt.

New figures released from Statistics Canada show Canadians are deeper in debt than ever and on P.E.I. there are new calls going out for Islanders to control their debt.

For every dollar of spending money, Canadians now owe $1.63. That's what Statistics Canada calls the debt to disposable income ratio. At 163 per cent, it's now the same as it was in the U.S. just before the housing bubble burst there.

"It's not really a concern at all because I don't have a credit card," said Emily Phillips. "I don't really think it's smart to get a credit card."

But ask somebody from P.E.I. about their debt load, and you'll find confidence mixed with caution.

"It's wise or prudent to just make sure that you're living within your means," said Jacob Dockendorf. "Then you won't have as many problems with your household debt."

But alarm bells are ringing. Interest rates remain at historic lows and that's enticing some people to borrow more. While borrowing to buy a house can be a good investment, credit card debt is another story.

"Credit card debt is probably a bit more of a concern because often you're not acquiring assets to back up what you're spending money on," said UPEI Economist Jim Sentance.

The Canadian Real Estate Association has said the resale housing market is softening, but it says it's doing so in what it calls a controlled manner. Prince Edward Island real estate agents got a briefing Wednesday from the CMHC.

House prices on P.E.I. have seen single digit growth in recent years.The latest forecasts suggest that will continue, but at a lower rate.

"We'll see that slow back a bit," said Jim Carragher, the President of the P.E.I. Real Estate Association. "But they're still predicting one and two percent, year over year, in the years to come."

A rise in bank rates would help control personal debt but it could also put the brakes on economic growth.

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