APRA Tightens Home Loan Borrowing | Kanebridge News
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APRA Tightens Home Loan Borrowing

The move is said to counter rising risks in home lending.

By Terry Christodoulou
Wed, Oct 6, 2021 10:09amGrey Clock < 1 min

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has today increased the minimum interest rate buffer it expects banks to use when assessing the serviceability of home loan applications.

The prudential regulator says the move will reduce the maximum borrowing capacity for the typical borrower by around 5%.

APRA has written to banks telling them to increase the buffer by 0.5% from 2.5% to 3%.

The buffer is added to the interest rate of the loan and borrowers are assessed on whether they can repay with the buffer to guard against higher interest rates in the future.

APRA Chair Wayne Byres said this is a targeted and judicious action.

“In taking action, APRA is focused on ensuring the financial system remains safe, and that banks are lending to borrowers who can afford the level of debt they are taking on – both today and into the future,” said Mr Byres.

It comes as housing credit growth is increasingly being driven by lending to more marginal and highly indebted borrowers. In the June quarter of 2021 more than 20% of new lending was to borrowers that had loaned more than 6 times their pre-tax income – a figure that is high by historical and international standards.

“With the economy expected to bounce back as lockdowns begin to be lifted around the country, the balance of risks is such that stronger serviceability standards are warranted,” Mr Byres said.

APRA decided to not use an interest rate floor as it said moving the floor would have a larger impact on owner-occupiers. The regulator had previously used a set floor until 2019 when it handed responsibility back to banks.

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House values continued to fall last month, but the pace of decline has slowed, CoreLogic reports.

In signs that the RBA’s aggressive approach to monetary policy is making an impact, CoreLogic’s Home Value Index reveals national dwelling values fell -1.0 percent in November, marking the smallest monthly decline since June.

The drop represents a -7.0 percent decline – or about $53,400 –  since the peak value recorded in April 2022. Research director at CoreLogic, Tim Lawless, said the Sydney and Melbourne markets are leading the way, with the capital cities experiencing the most significant falls. But it’s not all bad news for homeowners.

“Three months ago, Sydney housing values were falling at the monthly rate of -2.3 percent,” he said. “That has now reduced by a full percentage point to a decline of -1.3 percent in November.  In July, Melbourne home values were down -1.5 percent over the month, with the monthly decline almost halving last month to -0.8%.”

The rate of decline has also slowed in the smaller capitals, he said.  

“Potentially we are seeing the initial uncertainty around buying in a higher interest rate environment wearing off, while persistently low advertised stock levels have likely contributed to this trend towards smaller value falls,” Mr Lawless said. “However, it’s fair to say housing risk remains skewed to the downside while interest rates are still rising and household balance sheets become more thinly stretched.” 

The RBA has raised the cash rate from 0.10 in April  to 2.85 in November. The board is due to meet again next week, with most experts still predicting a further increase in the cash rate of 25 basis points despite the fall in house values.

Mr Lawless said if interest rates continue to increase, there is potential for declines to ‘reaccelerate’.

“Next year will be a particular test of serviceability and housing market stability, as the record-low fixed rate terms secured in 2021 start to expire,” Mr Lawless said.

Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week also reveal a slowdown in the rate of inflation last month, as higher mortgage repayments and cost of living pressures bite into household budgets.

However, ABS data reveals ongoing labour shortages and high levels of construction continues to fuel higher prices for new housing, although the rate of price growth eased in September and October. 

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