No relief for first-home buyers as mortgage restrictions stay

The Reserve Bank has assessed the home lending conditions as part of its financial stability...
The Reserve Bank has assessed the home lending conditions as part of its financial stability report. Photo: File

There will be no relief for first home buyers after the Reserve Bank decided to keep the home lending restrictions on the banks.

Market commentators had been divided over whether the central bank would ease the loan to value ratios today.

In a statement Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr said the LVR's had been successful in reducing the more excessive household mortgage lending and improving the resilience of banks to a significant deterioration in economic conditions.

"But, there remains the risk that prolonged low interest rates could lead to a resurgence in higher-risk lending. As such, we have decided to leave the LVR restrictions at current levels at this point in time."

Lending restrictions were introduced in October 2013 but have been slowly eased back in recent years, with the latest tweak made in January after being announced last November.

From January banks have been able to lend up to 20 per cent of their new lending to owner-occupiers with a deposit of under 20 per cent - that was up from 15 per cent of new lending.

It was also eased slightly for investors.

Up to 5 per cent of new mortgage loans to property investors is now allowed to those who have deposits of less than 30 per cent - from 35 per cent.

The LVR restrictions were first put in place to cool the property market, which was escalating quickly.

The restrictions did have this impact, but they've also led to years of criticism because of the limitation they've put on the ability of first-home buyers to purchase homes.

Former governor Graeme Wheeler defended the decision to impose the rules at the time, saying that the move would ultimately benefit first-home buyers.

"When an asset price bubble bursts, it imposes huge costs to individuals, to families and also to the economy," he said.

"If house prices did decline because of a financial setback - which could happen, for example, if China's growth slowed dramatically - then the people most affected are the first-home buyers."

The rules were revised in 2016 to target investors specifically, and this has had the effect of slowing down the market.

There is, however, some opinion now that the market has stabilised enough to allow for the restrictions to be scaled back.



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