The winding back of consumer credit reforms is a very small piece of the regulatory reform needed to ease household’s access to finance. Not only was easing of access to finance central to Australia’s recovery from the 1990’s recession, it is also essential for sustaining the dream of home ownership.
Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the government and regulators have adopted a ‘belt and braces’ approach to regulation – despite the lack of evidence of a problem – in the pursuit of an ‘unquestionably strong’ financial system.
This decade of red tape has reduced risk but it has come at a cost. This cost is borne by first-time home buyers who are being forced out of the market, which is contributing to the decline in home ownership.
Lower interest rates have made repaying a mortgage easier now than at any time since the 1990s, but the banks’ deposit requirements have become increasingly onerous.
Residential mortgages are deemed to be significantly more risky today than prior to the GFC. Since 2008, authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) have increased their capital as a share of total risk-weighted assets from 10.5 per cent to 15 per cent. This means that it is simply more expensive for banks to lend to first home buyers now than it was prior to the GFC. This risk-weighting is more significant for loans such as interest only loans, loans to investors, loans with high loan to value ratios and loans in riskier geographic areas.
Just in case this wasn’t enough, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) reviewed its Prudential Practice Guide for Residential Mortgage Lending in 2014, 2016 and 2019 – at each step making it harder to lend for the purchase of a new home. Compared with the pre-2014 guide, the guidelines in the 2019 edition are considerably more stringent. ASIC added further to the regulatory burden.
From the start of 2018, a credit crunch commenced. The time taken to assess a home loan went from two weeks to two months and the number of clients rejected for finance doubled. All this risk aversion, despite no evidence of the risk.