A leading mortgage professional has criticised the prudential regulator for not providing a clear time frame for its macro-prudential measures or explaining what it is ultimately looking to achieve.
Speaking to The Adviser on a recent Elite Broker podcast, Intuitive Finance managing director Andrew Mirams said that he can’t see the complexities in the mortgage market easing up “anytime soon”.
Australian banks are still required to limit their investor mortgage growth to 10 per cent, while interest-only loans can only account for 30 per cent of new lending.
“Late last year, [APRA chairman] Wayne Byres came out and said these are all temporary measures,” Mr Mirams said. “But he’s never articulated to anyone about how temporary or what measures might change in the future or what their actual outcome.
“I think a lot of the things they’ve done, they’ve got right. An investor getting a 97 per cent interest-only loan just didn’t make sense. You’re just putting people at risk should the markets move, and we all know markets move at different times.
“But they haven’t articulated what they were trying to achieve, what sort of timeline and what outcomes they are hoping to get. I think that would help all of us manage client expectations. Because all of us will have lots of clients that are getting frustrated with being told ‘no’. And you can’t really give them an outcome of what or when they might be able to move again.”
In October last year, Mr Byres spoke at the Customer Owned Banking Convention in Brisbane, where he indicated that the regulator would like to start scaling back its intervention, provided that banks can continue to lend responsibly.
“We would ideally like to start to step back from the degree of intervention we are exercising today,” Mr Byres said.
“Quantitative benchmarks, such as that on investor lending growth, have served a useful purpose but were always intended as temporary measures. That remains our intent, but for those of you who chafe at the constraint, their removal will require us to be comfortable that the industry’s serviceability standards have been sufficiently improved and — crucially — will be sustained.”
Macro-prudential measures are a relatively new instrument but have becoming increasingly popular across the globe. In addition to Australia, lending curbs are also being used in the UK, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Last year, the Bank of England confirmed that its own version of APRA lending curbs will become a “structural feature” of the British housing market, forcing Australian economists to begin questioning whether APRA’s macro-prudential measures could be permanent.
AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver believes that APRA’s measures, or at least some of them, will become permanent.
“I suspect that, as time goes by, they will likely become a permanent feature because of the control over risky behaviour that they allow over and above that achieved by varying interest rates and because the regulatory framework necessary to administer them will become more entrenched,” Mr Oliver said.
Mr Oliver believes that APRA’s mortgage curbs may be seen as increasingly attractive from a social policy perspective, in that they can “tilt lending away from non-first home owner-occupiers”.
There are other reasons why APRA’s measures are likely to remain.
“Poor affordability and high household debt levels, neither of which are likely to go away quickly,” Mr Oliver said.
[Related: Cooling property market ‘good news for APRA’]