APRA warns of rise in housing loans with LVRs of 90 per cent or more

The APRA deputy chair John Lonsdale noted the mutual banks' proportion of new housing loans with the loan-to-value ratio (LVR) of 90 per cent or more had risen

APRA warns of rise in housing loans with LVRs of 90 per cent or more
APRA warns of rise in housing loans with LVRs of 90 per cent or more

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has warned mutual banks that they appear to be assuming more risk through the rise in loans with LVRs of 90 per cent or more.

The APRA deputy chair John Lonsdale noted the mutual banks' proportion of new housing loans with the loan-to-value ratio (LVR) of 90 per cent or more had risen from 11 per cent in March 2019 to 17 per cent in December 2020.

Lonsdale told a Customer Owned Banking Association forum that this is a “notable” increase.

And that the current housing market environment was "characterised by record low interest rates, rising house prices and high household indebtedness."

He said given that the predominate business of Australia’s banking system is mortgage lending, APRA's focus was on ensuring that authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADI) manage risks to their balance sheets in this environment.

A mutual bank, also known as a customer-owned bank, is a credit union or building society that has gone through the regulatory process needed to use the word “bank” in its trading name.

"Loan portfolios of mutuals are heavily weighted towards housing, and COBA members need to be particularly attuned to shifts in their risk composition.

"APRA’s expectation is that ADIs should be careful about relaxing risk appetite limits and lending standards at this time.

"It is important that standards are maintained, monitored and tested," he said adding APRA had recently sought details from the 14 largest ADIs requesting more detailed data on their lending portfolios, and seeking assurances from Boards regarding lending standards.

"All boards should be closely monitoring their lending standards, comfortable with their risk appetite and testing whether serviceability policies used to assess borrowers remain prudent in an environment of extremely low interest rates.

"Smaller ADIs are also expected to be rigorous in monitoring and testing their own risk appetite and lending standards, rather than waiting for a call from their APRA supervisor," he added.

“While LVR is only one of a number of metrics that need to be considered, it does raise the question of whether the mutual sector is taking on more risk in pursuit of market share, and how sustainable that is.

“As I mentioned at the outset, it’s critical in the current environment of heightened risk that boards remain highly attuned to shifts in the composition of their lending book."

The mortgagebusiness.com.au website noted Lonsdale advised that APRA was aware of the cost pressures faced by the mutual bank sector.

He noted the ratio of non-performing housing loans revealed the strong performance of mutuals over the past decade.

The ratio has remained relatively steady at around 0.4 per cent over recent years, and as at December of last year was less than half that of the majors – 0.4 per cent compared to 0.9 per cent.

"It’s fair to say this differential is a reflection of the depth of understanding that mutuals have of their customers, and their ability to adhere to sound lending practices.

"That said, it’s worth noting that 14 mutuals have non-performing housing loan ratios of over 0.6 per cent, which is 50 per cent higher than the average for the sector – so performance does vary."

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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