Editorial: Property market a 'threat'

By Dylan Thorne

1 comment


There are rising fears New Zealand's housing bubble could burst.

Standard & Poor's, the global credit rating agency, has put eight local banks on notice over fears the housing boom could destabilise the economy.

The rating agency says persistent current account deficits and a hot property market are threats to the New Zealand economy.

The International Monetary Fund says local housing is about 25 per cent over-valued and the Reserve Bank last week threatened to introduce restrictions on low-equity loans if they pose a "significant risk" to the system.

If those threats materialise, "banks' credit losses could rise materially, given that there was a build-up in housing prices and domestic credit over the period preceding the global financial crisis", it says.

It's incredible to me that we should be in this position so soon after the awful fallout that followed the global financial crisis.

I recall how out of kilter the property market was when I tried to buy my first house in the 2000s. Investors were buying up rentals, which meant a lot of the homes we were looking at as first-home buyers were being snapped up.

Prices began to climb quickly because of the overheated demand in the market and we soon found ourselves effectively priced out of the market.

I can only imagine how difficult it is for first-home buyers in Auckland at the moment where the current housing boom is concentrated.

The Reserve Bank has sent some strong signals to the home-lending banks that it wants them to curb their riskier mortgage lending.

It will require banks to hold more capital against their riskier loans from the end of September, which will result in an average increase in banks' capital held for housing of about 12 per cent.

Fuelling the Reserve Bank's concerns, risky lending - providing mortgages to people with less than a 20 per cent deposit - has grown from 23 per cent of new mortgage lending in October 2011 to 30 per cent now.

The Real Estate Institute has pointed out that house price increases had been "very modest" outside of Auckland and that it is a regional issue.

That may soon change. I support the moves. Something needs to be done to stabilise the housing market and house prices. I think higher deposit rates are a sensible move. It would reduce risky lending and moderate the housing market.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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