RBNZ asks for DTI tools

[UPDATED] The Reserve Bank has officially asked the Government for debt to income restriction tools, although it has no plans to immediately deploy them. Includes ASB comments.

The Reserve Bank has asked the Minister of Finance, Bill English, to agree to add a Debt to Income (DTI) tool to the Memorandum of Understanding on macro-prudential policy. 

"While the bank is not proposing use of such a tool at this time, financial stability risks can build up quickly and restrictions on high-DTI lending could be warranted if housing market imbalances were to deteriorate further,” the central bank said in its just released Financial Stability Report.

“New restrictions on lending to property investors with high loan to value ratios (LVRs) came into force on 1 October. These restrictions, along with the earlier LVR restrictions, are increasing the resilience of bank balance sheets to a downturn in the housing market," RBNZ Deputy Governor, Grant Spencer, said.

“However, the share of bank mortgage lending to customers with high DTI ratios has been increasing and this could increase the rate of loan defaults during a housing downturn.

“The banking system has strong capital and funding buffers and profitability remains high. Despite being relatively concentrated, New Zealand’s banking system also appears to be operating efficiently from an international perspective based on metrics such as the cost-to-income ratio and the spread between lending and deposit rates.

“However the banking system’s reliance on offshore wholesale funding is beginning to increase due to a widening gap between credit and deposit growth. Banks could become more susceptible to increased funding costs and reduced access to funding in the event of heightened financial market volatility.

ASB economists don’t expect to see any further macro-prudential action for some time. 

"The DTI tool is unlikely to be ready to implement until the second half of next year (assuming the formal go-ahead is given).  Whether or not the RBNZ uses it from that point will depend on the RBNZ’s assessment of housing market risks."

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