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DTIs still in the melting pot

Finance Minister Nicola Willis is waiting on RBNZ advice before deciding whether debt-to-income (DTI) restrictions should be implemented.

Tuesday, December 12th 2023, 11:21AM 3 Comments

by Sally Lindsay

The RBNZ says DTIs will be complementary to its loan-to-value ratio (LVR) tool which has restricted lending to home buyers with a 20% deposit and investors with 40%. The major banks have some leeway in lending on lower deposits, but have kept them to a minimum.
Implementing DTIs does not require government approval, but in the past the RBNZ has sought approval from the Finance Minister before implementing new tools. Willis says the central bank is yet to speak to her about plans for the possible DTI restrictions. Until then, she is not commenting. However, National has favoured DTIs.

In a recent RBNZ article, it claims if the previous government had authorised it to introduce DTIs pre-Covid, fewer borrowers would be struggling now that interest rates are higher. 

If DTIs are applied, banks will be prepared as the RBNZ has already told them to be ready from April 2024.

In a New Zealand case study for the Bank of International Settlements, the Reserve Bank says DTIs are the most effective in supporting financial stability and sustainable house prices, while having a smaller impact on first-time buyers than on investors.

As DTI restrictions link credit availability to income, they are seen to be more effective in constraining debt levels compared with other macroprudential tools.

How LTVs have affected borrowers

The study on macroprudential policies to mitigate housing market risks by Chris McDonald says LTV restrictions have successfully added to household and lender resilience.

Housing-related risks are a major focus in the NZ financial system, McDonald says. 

Mortgage lending makes up 60% of banking sector assets and the vast majority of household debt, which is about 170% of household income in aggregate. Household debt is relatively high compared with other developed economies.

This debt is concentrated in just 39% of households that have a mortgage. The majority of households own their own home – about 60% – with the remaining largely owned by small-scale investors.

Highly indebted mortgage borrowers are particularly vulnerable to house price and economic cycles.

Prior to LTV restrictions in 2013, higher-risk lending had been building on banks’ balance sheets. At that time, about 20% of banks’ mortgage lending had an LTV ratio at origination above 80%, which was rising. This meant the banking sector became increasingly vulnerable to housing risks, including house price fluctuations.

The median house price is about nine times the median household disposable income, having increased over the past 20 years as long-term interest rates have trended lower globally. Strong population growth because of net immigration has also contributed to growing housing demand. 

Loosened then tightened

LTV restrictions have been loosened and tightened during the country’s property cycles.

McDonald says based on the RBNZ’s experience with adjusting LTV restrictions during the entire cycle, the bank has found that tightening LTV restrictions has only a limited and temporary impact on house price inflation. As such, during upswings they have not been able to materially reduce house prices towards more sustainable levels.

“The period after 2021 demonstrates that LTV restrictions have helped boost the resilience of borrowers. A rapid increase in interest rates from late 2021 contributed to house prices falling by more than 15%.

“Despite this decline, signs of distress have been limited, with few forced sales and the share of non-performing loans remaining low, at least until mid-2023. While LTV restrictions may have helped during this period, the strength of the labour market probably played a part as well.”

McDonald says the RBNZ has found that tightening LTV policy takes longer and requires more internal resources than easing because banks need time to adjust their flow of pre-approvals and carry out public consultation when tightening.

While LTV restrictions promote financial stability, they can have unintended consequences that need to be considered and managed, McDonald says. Examples of these consequences over time are:

  • Allocative efficiency of the financial system: LTV restrictions can restrict lending to creditworthy borrowers who are able to service loans but do not have sufficient equity.
  • Housing supply: When LTV restrictions were implemented in 2013, lending for construction was not exempt. Banks and industry groups raised concerns about the impact of LTV restrictions on housing supply and it  was noted at the time that while high-LTV construction lending only made up around 1% of total residential lending, it was financing around 12% of residential building activity.
  • Competition between banks: LTV restrictions may impact banks’ ability to compete with respect to certain dimensions of risk. The policy could effectively coordinate banks’ pricing, leading to tacit (and legal) collusion.

Tags: DTIs

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Comments from our readers

On 12 December 2023 at 12:12 pm Amused said:
"Implementing DTIs does not require Government approval, but in the past the RBNZ has sought approval from the Finance Minister before implementing any new tools. Willis says the central bank is yet to speak to her about any plans for the possible application of DTI restrictions. Until then, she is not making any comment. However, National has not been in favour of DTIs."

Don't do it Nicola! You only have to look at the track record of this current RBNZ management team to know that DTIs would be yet another monetary policy disaster originating from 2 The Terrace Wellington. This has CCCFA changes version 2.0 written all over it if the RBNZ gets to set DTIs at they level they want to. There are already adequate checks in place at banks to ensure customers can meet their future loan repayments. Mr Orr and his team of academics are the actual cause of the current difficulties some borrowers are facing now thanks to the RBNZ keeping interest rates too low for too long. Why wasn't the RBNZ proactive at making sure all banks still kept their test rates at pre-pandemic levels? Oh that's right. Adrian was too preoccupied with climate change and cultural issues.

On 12 December 2023 at 2:47 pm valkyrie6 said:
New Zealand banks have been assessing customers abilities to service loan for over 150 years now, so they are pretty good at it and as they are privately owned businesses, they already have to be very risk focused as customers that default on their mortgage loans are not good for business.

Mortgage defaults In NZ are extremally low and I would say not even 1 % of a bank’s lending books so clearly banks are already doing a great Job assessing and analysing customers’ ability to fund mortgage debt.

DTI’s are a very very blunt tool,

Having an outside government department dictate rules to a private business is nuts, Debt to income ratios will hinder good hard-working people that have the integrity and maturity to fund their own mortgage loan if they so choose too, putting a cap on lending amounts is unnecessary and could actually drop house prices.

In many mortgage advisers experiences they will tell you that higher earning customers are not always the ones that pay back their loan faster and, in my experience, some medium to lower earning house holds repay their mortgage loans back at a tremendous pace and not need a government department to tell how responsible they are or not.

On 13 December 2023 at 10:35 am KiwiInvestor said:
Access to credit will be further eroded if the RBNZ get their way introducing DTI's. It won't just be home borrowers or investors effected by this, but the many small business owners who use there homes as security to secure credit facilities for business. Once these start to slowdown the wider economy will start to spiral faster into recession. More 'unintended' consequences the left leaning RBNZ governer isn't seeing!

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AIA - Back My Build 6.19 - - -
AIA - Go Home Loans 8.74 ▼6.85 ▼6.49 ▼6.35
ANZ 8.64 ▼7.45 ▼7.09 ▼6.95
ANZ Blueprint to Build 7.39 - - -
ANZ Good Energy - - - 1.00
ANZ Special - ▼6.85 ▼6.49 ▼6.35
ASB Bank 8.64 ▼6.85 ▼6.49 ▼6.35
ASB Better Homes Top Up - - - 1.00
Avanti Finance 9.15 - - -
Basecorp Finance 9.60 - - -
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Lender Flt 1yr 2yr 3yr
BNZ - Classic - ▼6.85 ▼6.49 ▼6.39
BNZ - Green Home Loan top-ups - - - 1.00
BNZ - Mortgage One 8.69 - - -
BNZ - Rapid Repay 8.69 - - -
BNZ - Std, FlyBuys 8.69 ▼7.45 ▼7.09 ▼6.99
BNZ - TotalMoney 8.69 - - -
CFML Loans 9.45 - - -
China Construction Bank - 7.09 6.75 6.49
China Construction Bank Special - - - -
Co-operative Bank - First Home Special - ▼6.59 - -
Co-operative Bank - Owner Occ 8.40 ▼6.79 ▼6.49 ▼6.35
Lender Flt 1yr 2yr 3yr
Co-operative Bank - Standard 8.40 ▼7.29 ▼6.99 ▼6.85
Credit Union Auckland 7.70 - - -
First Credit Union Special - 7.45 7.35 -
First Credit Union Standard 8.50 7.99 7.85 -
Heartland Bank - Online 7.99 ▼6.69 ▼6.35 ▼6.15
Heartland Bank - Reverse Mortgage - - - -
Heretaunga Building Society 8.90 ▼7.50 ▼7.25 -
HSBC Premier 8.59 - - -
HSBC Premier LVR > 80% - - - -
HSBC Special - - - -
ICBC 7.85 7.05 6.69 6.59
Lender Flt 1yr 2yr 3yr
Kainga Ora 8.64 7.74 7.35 6.99
Kainga Ora - First Home Buyer Special - - - -
Kiwibank 8.50 ▼7.75 ▼7.39 ▼7.19
Kiwibank - Offset 8.50 - - -
Kiwibank Special - ▼6.85 ▼6.49 ▼6.39
Liberty 8.59 8.69 8.79 8.94
Nelson Building Society 9.00 ▼7.25 ▼6.90 -
Pepper Money Advantage 10.49 - - -
Pepper Money Easy 8.69 - - -
Pepper Money Essential 8.29 - - -
SBS Bank 8.74 7.74 7.09 6.95
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SBS Bank Special - 7.14 6.49 6.35
SBS Construction lending for FHB - - - -
SBS FirstHome Combo 6.19 6.14 - -
SBS FirstHome Combo - - - -
SBS Unwind reverse equity 9.95 - - -
Select Home Loans 9.24 - - -
TSB Bank 9.44 ▼7.65 ▼7.29 ▼7.19
TSB Special 8.64 ▼6.85 ▼6.49 ▼6.39
Unity 8.64 ▼6.85 ▼6.49 -
Unity First Home Buyer special - ▼6.45 - -
Wairarapa Building Society 8.60 6.95 6.85 -
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Westpac 8.64 ▼7.45 ▼7.09 ▼6.89
Westpac Choices Everyday 8.74 - - -
Westpac Offset 8.64 - - -
Westpac Special - ▼6.85 ▼6.49 ▼6.29
Median 8.64 7.07 6.85 6.39

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