The Reserve Bank Just Warned The Rise in House Prices Has Made The Market 'Unbalanced'

Getty/Ian Hitchcock

The RBA has just released what is possibly its most anticipated Financial Stability Review (FSR) ever.

The market, commentators and property industry participants have been keen to hear the RBA’s views on housing and the impact on the economy since the board minutes to the September meeting were released with a heightened level of concern on the topic.

In its overview the RBA highlights the risks:

The low interest rate environment and, more recently, strong price competition among lenders have translated into a strong pick-up in growth in lending for investor housing – noticeably more so than for owner-occupier housing or businesses. Recent housing price growth seems to have encouraged further investor activity. As a result, the composition of housing and mortgage markets is becoming unbalanced, with new lending to investors being out of proportion to rental housing’s share of the housing stock. Both construction and lending activity are increasingly concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne, where prices have also risen the most.

In the first instance, the risks associated with this lending behaviour are likely to be macroeconomic in nature rather than direct risks to the stability of financial institutions. Property investors in Australia have historically been at least as creditworthy as owner-occupiers, and mortgage lending standards remain firmer than in the years leading up to the financial crisis. Even so, a broader risk remains that additional speculative demand can amplify the property price cycle and increase the potential for prices to fall later, with associated effects on household wealth and spending. These dynamics can affect households more widely than just those that are currently taking out loans: the households most affected by the declines in wealth need not necessarily be those that contributed to heightened activity. Furthermore, the direct risks to financial institutions would increase if these high rates of lending growth persist, or increase further. In this environment, recent measures announced by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) should promote stronger risk management practices by lenders. The Bank is discussing with APRA, and other members of the Council of Financial Regulators, additional steps that might be taken to reinforce sound lending practices, particularly for lending to investors.

There you have it – some serious concerns about housing and the impact on the economy and households and the RBA and APRA are looking at macro prudential controls

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