APRA toughens mortgage rules and raises benchmark interest rate

The banking regulator has announced stricter viability tests for home loans, which will make it more difficult for some borrowers to obtain a mortgage.

In a letter to banks today, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) increased the minimum interest rate cushion on home loan applications by 2.5 to 3 percentage points.

He estimates that the increase will reduce “the maximum borrowing capacity for the typical borrower by about 5 percent.”

He also indicates that the move “will have no impact on mortgage interest rates.”

“All ADI [authorised deposit taking institutions] should operate with a margin of at least 3 percentage points on the loan interest rate, “the regulator warned in the letter.

“When ADIs continue to approve loans using a lower buffer rate beyond the end of October 2021, APRA will adjust individual prudential capital requirements to reflect the higher credit risk inherent in new loans. “

What does it mean?

This means that starting in November, banks will have to test whether new borrowers can still pay their mortgage payments if mortgage interest rates rise 3 percentage points above their current rate.

In other words, if you applied for a mortgage at a 2% interest rate on November 1, the bank would check to see if you can afford to make repayments at a 5% interest rate. If you couldn’t, the loan application would be refused.

If they do not use this higher test, they will be financially penalized by having to hold more reserves against losses, which would reduce their profitability.

In practice, this means that all regulated institutions will use the minimum 3 percentage point buffer.

For home loan seekers, this means that the maximum amount people can borrow relative to their income and expenses will be lower than it was under the old 2.5% utility test.

The risks were mounting

APRA President Wayne Byres said the move was aimed at avoiding the risks of building a growing number of very large mortgages.

“While the banking system is well capitalized and lending standards have generally been maintained, the increase in the share of heavily indebted borrowers and indebtedness in the household sector in general means that medium-term risks for the financial stability is accumulating, ”he noted.

At least one of the big banks has welcomed the move itself.

Commonwealth Bank Managing Director Matt Comyn hailed the tougher lending rules.(

ABC News: Daniel Irvine


“We believe APRA’s announcement to increase the service floor is a sensible and appropriate step to help alleviate some of the heat in the housing market,” Commonwealth Bank Managing Director Matt said. Comyn, in a press release.

“After raising our floor to 5.25% in June, we believe this new step will provide additional comfort for borrowers and is a prudent step for lenders.”

Other restrictions “may be necessary”

Many analysts expected tighter mortgage requirements after recent comments from regulators and the treasurer, but most did not expect the change to happen so quickly.

However, some say we can expect to see more tightening action in the future.

“In the context of the current strength in the housing market, this is a modest change,” said David Plank, head of the Australian economy at ANZ.

APRA agrees that “the overall impact on overall housing credit growth that results from it should be quite modest.”

RBC’s Su-Lin Ong said APRA took its current approach because it was a proven approach and easier to implement than other alternatives, such as a limit on loans with a high debt-to-income ratio.

“Our reading of today’s APRA statement, coupled with our assessment of credit growth, particularly for key cohorts such as investors, suggests that further measures are likely if the increase in the rate cushion fails to moderate credit growth, ”she warned.

The ABC boss agrees that additional rules may be needed to reduce risk in the mortgage market.

“We will be implementing the changes this month and expect there will be a need to consider additional measures as the lockdowns end and consumer confidence increases,” Mr. Comyn added.

Rule change likely to affect investors the most

APRA said the rule change was necessary because there had been a significant increase in the number of people borrowing very large amounts in recent months.

“In the June 2021 quarter, for example, over 20% of new ADI loans went to borrowers who had borrowed more than six times their pre-tax income.

“This is high by historical and international standards, and without action, the share is likely to increase further. “

The increase in the interest rate cushion applies to all new borrowers, but APRA has said the impact of a higher service cushion is likely to be greater for investors than for new borrowers. owner-occupants.

He said this is because, on average, investors tend to borrow at higher debt levels and may have other existing debt (to which the cushion would also be applied).

He noted that first-time homebuyers tend to be under-represented as a share of borrowers borrowing a high multiple of their income, as they tend to be more limited by the amount of their deposit.

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