TORONTO - Canada is implementing three changes to mortgage rules that will help protect the housing market, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Tuesday.

The Canadian government said borrowers will need to qualify for a five-year fixed-rate mortgage even if they go with a lower rate, and will lower maximum amounts that can be withdrawn when refinancing mortgages. It will also require a minimum downpayment of 20 percent for insured mortgages tied to non-owner occupied properties bought for speculation.

Flaherty described the housing market as healthy and stable and said that the government's early action can help prevent negative trends from happening. (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)