RBNZ willing to set limits on risky lending

The Reserve Bank will impose the most controversial of its new tools – a limit on riskier mortgage lending with smaller deposits – if it judges such loans to be a "significant risk" to the country's financial stability.

The Reserve Bank would impose the most controversial of its new tools – a limit on riskier mortgage lending with smaller deposits – if it judged such loans to be a "significant risk" to the country's financial stability.

The bank has completed its public consultation on the use of macro-prudential tools, which aim to curb asset bubbles, and will hold talks with the major lenders over the next two months to establish the implementation of the new tool-kit, deputy governor Grant Spencer says in a statement accompanying the bank's six-monthly financial stability report.

The tools would let the central bank adjust the core funding ratio, impose counter-cyclical buffers, require sectoral capital requirements, and restrict high loan-to-value mortgage lending.

"Overall, we do not envisage major changes to the framework proposed in the consultation documents," Mr Spencer says.

Most of the focus in the submissions was on the use of limiting high loan-to-value ratios, with major concerns around the cooling effect they could have on first-home buyers, small businesses and the Canterbury rebuild.

Without hinting at whether the bank will impose stricter LVR criteria when it gets the new tools, it says "the Reserve Bank's aim would be to apply the restrictions at times when high LVR lending was judged to be posing a significant risk to the financial system stability".

Mortgage lending with an LVR of 80 percent or more now accounts for about 20 percent of banks' total residential loan books and has made up about 30 percent of new ending.

The bank is also considering expanding the macro-prudential framework to include non-bank lenders who might mop up some of the low equity mortgage loans if banks are restricted from writing them.

Bank governor Graeme Wheeler today said the growing pressures in the housing market are increasing the risks to New Zealand's financial stability with already high prices continue to rise, though the report did not characterise the risk as "significant".

That is being caused by a lack of housing supply, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch, and created problems for the bank as it tries to balance those issues against a strong currency that is damping tradable inflation and hindering export returns.

Mr Wheeler says the creation of the macro-prudential framework reflects "our concerns around housing sector developments".

The move follows similar actions by central banks in Canada, Israel, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, which have all moved to quell the risks associated with potential housing bubbles.

Those tools have been recently used in Canada and Sweden, and have been cited as "one of the factors behind the more recent slowdowns in household credit and house prices", the bank's report says.

The Reserve Bank expects to sign a memorandum of understanding with Finance Minister Bill English shortly.

(BusinessDesk)

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