Ban on loans for high rise apartments right choice, says credit union CEO

Ban on loans for high rise apartments right choice, says credit union CEO
Ban on loans for high rise apartments right choice, says credit union CEO

People's Choice Credit Union’s conservative policy of not lending to buyers of apartments in high-density developments more than six storeys high will prove right if there is a property market downturn, according to its chief executive.

Steve Laidlaw, CEO of Australia's second-largest credit union, said the ban on lending for high-density apartments had cost the group business in the boom times, but would ultimately be a big plus.

"There is a bigger credit risk when it comes to high-density apartment living," he said on Monday, The Australian Financial Review reported.

Laidlaw’s statement came during the results announcement. 

People's Choice Credit Union increased its home loan book by about 8 per cent to $6.3 billion in the 12 months ended June 30, 2017, with owner-occupier loans making up 81 per cent and investors 19 per cent. It has 47 branches. Loans to customers in Victoria make up about 9 per cent of the residential lending book.

The group’s net profit after tax slipped 7.98 per cent to $33.1 million for 2016-17, with net interest margins falling as customers shifted to lower rate package products in a highly competitive market. Laidlaw said net interest margins were expected to stabilise in 2017-18.

The credit union has been expanding in Victoria from its traditional base of South Australia and the Northern Territory. 

On the risks of a downturn, Laidlaw said that he didn't think there would be a short-term slide in the apartment market in Australia, but if a downturn did happen, it would likely start with the high-density apartment market."

"Our risks to that space are pretty well mitigated," he said. "We've always been pretty conservative."

However, he expects residential property prices to remain strong and isn't predicting a price slide. 

Laidlaw expects the next movement in official interest rates from the Reserve Bank of Australia to be up, but borrowers have plenty of breathing space. 

"I think the next move is up. We probably think around mid next year at this point in time," he said.

According to him, the RBA will only raise rates in small increments and that most home loan customers across the financial services industry had built in sufficient buffers in the loans to still be able to service them in a higher rate environment.

High-rise Loan Restrictions

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