10 Nov 2014

Mortgage lending limits 'on way out'

7:33 pm on 10 November 2014

Lending restrictions imposed on house-buyers with low deposit buyers are on the way out, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Loan-to-value ratio (LVR) restrictions limited the total amount banks could lend to borrowers with deposits of less than 20 per cent.

The Reserve Bank brought in the limits in October last year to combat housing inflation.

Mr English said today pressures were easing, and while decisions on LVRs are for the Reserve Bank to make, he thinks its managers will move.

"They find themselves in a world where the current interest rate pressure is less than they expected and probably house price inflation is a bit lower than they expected.

"In fact most of the content of the current inflation rate is related to housing but it's lower than everyone thought it would be."

Mr English said LVRs were always supposed to be a temporary measure and he expects the central bank will end them, but he does not have a time line.

"The Reserve Bank's always said they're a temporary measure - it's really just a matter of the way they're going to be relaxed and when that's going to happen.

"There's less pressure to have them now than there was and I would expect that the bank is looking at the path to the end of LVRs."

Labour's housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the restrictions were too blunt and not considered properly, and have caused damage to first home buyers.

"If the lending restrictions are lifted it will be a big boon to first-home buyers who've been driven out of the market by these 20 percent minimum deposits.

"Most recent data indicates 45 percent of sales are to speculators and only 19 percent to first-home buyers."

But Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said he was hesitant about any rush to lift home lending restrictions for people with low deposits as the heat had not been taken out of the housing market.

"We still do have significant problems with house price pressures, so using the LVRs might have some advantages, particularly with regard to first home buyers," he said.

"But we need to look at a broader picture about 'how are we keeping down the pressure on house prices', and LVRs are part of that."

Mr English was out of touch if he believed the housing market was better balanced now, Dr Norman said.

On Wednesday, the central bank will provide an update when it releases its six-monthly Financial Stability report.

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