RBNZ 'seriously considering' use of new tools on overheating housing market; suggests financial risks may be greater now than in pre-GFC housing boom

The Reserve Bank says the risks to the financial system from the current overheating house market may be actually greater than those posed by the pre-global financial crisis housing boom.

Deputy Governor Grant Spencer said the RBNZ was 'seriously considering' the use of macro-prudential tools to help moderate house price inflation pressures. See here for our articles on macro-prudential tools.

"In the pre-GFC housing boom, with hindsight and with the macro-prudential framework we now have, we would most likely have applied macro-prudential instruments with the aim of reducing systemic risk," Spencer said in a speech today to Business New Zealand.

"In the current situation, with house prices and household debt ratios starting from much higher levels, and with interest rates at historically low levels, the risks to financial stability may well be greater,” he said.

Spencer said that of the four macro-prudential tools available, the loan-to-value-ratio (LVR) instrument "is the one with the best scope to dampen the current strong demand for housing, as well as reducing the risk to bank balance sheets".

Earlier the RBNZ had appeared not to favour using controls on high LVRs. However, in a recent speech RBNZ Governor Graeme Wheeler strongly hinted that the bank might after all look to apply such limits. The language from the RBNZ has gradually got stronger on the subject since. But to this point the bank has stopped short of saying when such controls might be introduced. And Spencer's speech today gave no greater clues.

Macro-prudential policy is intended to be used as needed, to reduce significant but transitory risks affecting the broad financial system.

Spencer said that in the central bank's view the strength of housing and credit demand in New Zealand was not being fully reflected in the aggregate credit data.

"Total outstanding mortgage credit growth is increasing but still at lower rates – of around 5% to 6% per annum – than in the previous boom," he said.

"However these growth rates are net of debt repayments, which have been significantly higher in the years since the GFC.

"New mortgage approvals and loans have been growing at a faster rate and are now comparable with the pre-GFC peak levels.

"The value of house sales is now also near the 2006-07 peak levels," Spencer said.

These trends would not be of real concern If house prices and debt were rising from depressed levels, he said.

"However the current house price and debt trends are on top of already high base levels – both by historical and international standards."

He said New Zealand had the fifth-highest house price overvaluation, relative to incomes, in the OECD.

"The further house prices are stretched, the more likely it is we will see a disruptive downward correction at some point in the future.

"While the banks’ balance sheets are currently in good shape with strong capital and liquidity buffers, such a correction could be very damaging if combined with a serious economic or financial shock to New Zealand.

"With some slack still in the economy, housing cannot yet be described as a threat to overall inflation. Higher interest rates are not the right policy response at this time," Spencer said.

While limited house supply is at the heart of the problem, strong demand supported by easy credit is underpinning the rapid escalation of house prices, Spencer said.

“The new macro-prudential policy framework has been developed to address just this kind of macro-financial imbalance. The Reserve Bank is therefore seriously considering the use of macro-prudential policy,” he said.

The four potential macro-prudential instruments included in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Reserve Bank and the Minister of Finance all work in quite different ways to reduce financial system risk.

“While we believe that LVR restrictions could have significant benefits in terms of reducing systemic risk in the housing market, they are not a panacea.

We know that LVR restrictions could introduce market distortions. However, we need to assess inefficiencies against the potentially significant economic and financial damage that could result from a housing boom that ends in a severe housing downturn.

“While macro-prudential policy measures might make credit less accessible for a period, they should help to make house prices more affordable in the longer term,” Spencer said.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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This is confusing..the same Spencer back in 08/09 was calling on the banks to "play the game"....and play it they did....and look what is happening....
We should wait until the tea lady on the top floor of the RBNZ tells us she is about to use the macro spoon to stir the tea....

Market regulation, Capital Taxes?
Bring back the Czars.

These are surely second rate tools to deal with the problem.  The fundamental problems as we all know are overpriced land and building materials as a result of corruptly rigged makets and nothing like the free markets that you would expect the National party to champion.  Combined with a policy of practically open door immgration and a propery market free to all the world.  There is not much more that the government could do if they wanted run away house price inflation.  All we have from them is hot air which one has to assume is purely for the purpose of appearing to do something. Poor old Grant Spencer and co can only tinker arround the edge of the problem and posibly do a lot of collateral damage in the process.

Yep... poor Reserve Bank governors have been up against it ever since these urban planning policies were implemented.

The current overheated housing market is a threat to future financial stability and the Reserve Bank is 'seriously considering' the use of macro-prudential tools to help moderate house price inflation pressures, deputy governor Grant Spencer says.
“With some slack still in the economy, housing cannot yet be described as a threat to overall inflation. Higher interest rates are not the right policy response at this time,
I always believed financial instability equated with higher risk, hence higher rates of return are demanded to compensate for that risk, be it credit or otherwise.
Am I the only one being unnecessarily patronised by impotent jawboning?

Cripes, even Westpac comprehends reality, but they demand that the ideologues at the RBNZ hold down domestic funding costs (OCR) so only they and their banking cohorts can benefit from a further round of good old fashioned wealth transfer.  

SH, Bang On. It's a surfiet of cheap (under priced for risk) credit (and tax advantages for Dentists, et al, but the RB can't do much about that)  that fuels the property pyramid scheme, calling itself the Real Estate sector. It will all end in tears.

No your not the only one Stephen H.....but the very culture of smug patronisation is the prevailing mode of the current Administration. I have no doubt Wheeeler would need to find his spine to avoid continuing to be part of the problem...!
Mr Speaker....Mr Wheeler....Mr Banks... Mr Sharples...all are beholding....as was Mr Dunne but alas his urges got the better of him.

So demand higher rates....tell the bank or whomever you are with you want 12% on your money or you'll take it out and hide it under the bed.
Good luck.

I make my argument in defence of the not so well informed and elderly - I am fully capable of extracting my return from unsuspecting professionals - I have no need to prey upon the meek.

And the RBNZ just figured this out...?
Congratulations people, these are the minders of your economy, the sentinels of  impending danger for those aboard the good ship N.Z. inc.
 The banking fraternity have continued with irresponsible lending practices while the RBNZ have sat on their hands  issuing empty threats toward those who ...actualy run the sideshow, and that is what it looks like from where I sit...a wild west sideshow with the Carnies calling the punters in .
What ever Wheeler proposes ,it will in fact be little more than a retrospective  (I told you so) further down the track.
The RBNZ is charged with watching over the economy with duty of care  for the benifit of all N.Z. citizens,while ensuring their impartiality remains paramount.
 The RBNZ should be charged with criminal negligence, and possibly conspiring to behave in the interests of a few.

do Bunnings sell Macro Prudential tools ?    good be a nice little money spinner soon

Yeah right next to the nuts....

And a message for Kiwi's here...
because when the storm gets worse, you can bet the RBNZ will turn on the peasants who did the borrowing.