Captured APRA removes mortgage buffers

As expected:

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has announced that it will proceed with proposed changes to its guidance on the serviceability assessments that authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) perform on residential mortgage applications.

In a letter to ADIs issued today, APRA confirmed its updated guidance on residential mortgage lending will no longer expect them to assess home loan applications using a minimum interest rate of at least 7 per cent. Common industry practice has been to use a rate of 7.25 per cent.

Instead, ADIs will be able to review and set their own minimum interest rate floor for use in serviceability assessments and utilise a revised interest rate buffer of at least 2.5 per cent over the loan’s interest rate.

APRA received 26 submissions after commencing a consultation in May on proposed amendments to Prudential Practice Guide APG 223 Residential Mortgage Lending (APG 223). The majority of submissions supported the direction of APRA’s proposals, although some respondents requested that APRA provide new or additional guidance on how floor rates should be set and applied.

Having considered the submissions, Chair Wayne Byres said APRA believes its amendments are appropriately calibrated.

“In the prevailing environment, a serviceability floor of more than seven per cent is higher than necessary for ADIs to maintain sound lending standards. Additionally, the widespread use of differential pricing for different types of loans has challenged the merit of a uniform interest rate floor across all mortgage products,” Mr Byres said.

“However, with many risk factors remaining in place, such as high household debt, and subdued income growth, it is important that ADIs actively consider their portfolio mix and risk appetite in setting their own serviceability floors. Furthermore, they should regularly review these to ensure their approach to loan serviceability remains appropriate.”

APRA originally introduced the serviceability guidance in December 2014 as part of a package of measures designed to reinforce residential lending standards.

Mr Byres said: “The changes being finalised today are not intended to signal any lessening in the importance APRA places on the maintenance of sound lending standards. This updated guidance provides ADIs with greater flexibility to set their own serviceability floors, while maintaining a measure of prudence through the application of an appropriate buffer that reflects the inherent uncertainty in credit assessments.”

The new guidance takes effect immediately.

As we know, this was the idea of the big banks. It is very stupid given the RBA is already cutting, risking pushing all the easing into misallocated mortgages instead of a falling currency, as usual.

That said, the combined might of cuts and APRA easing is not exactly rocket fuel, from UBS:

Houses and Holes

David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the fouding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.

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