According to ANZ’s latest report, Australian Housing Update – Gliding to a soft landing, the stricter lending rules put in place by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) have “driven investors out of the housing market”.
Last year, APRA called on lenders to limit interest-only loans to within 30 per cent of their loan books, building on December 2014 laws requiring lenders keep investor growth to within a 10 per cent benchmark.
While APRA has flagged that it will remove the 10 per cent benchmark “sooner rather than later”, the 30 per cent interest-only limit is unlikely to be removed as soon.
In its report, however, ANZ was firm that APRA’s changes have had the effect of “squeezing” investors from the market.
“To a large extent, they are being replaced by first home buyers, who are enjoying stamp duty discounts in New South Wales and Victoria,” the report’s authors, Daniel Gradwell and Joanne Masters, said.
At the same time, they warned that the subdued investor activity has “translated into a slowdown in price growth”.
This slowdown, nonetheless, was in line with ANZ’s expectations, with the authors predicting that most of the slowdown has already occurred.
“APRA’s regulatory tightening, first on investor borrowing then on interest-only loans, was always expected to take some demand out of the market and slow price growth,” they said.
“We retain our view that prices will not materially decline. Over the near term, auction results in Sydney and Melbourne suggest that the majority of the price growth adjustment is behind us.”
However, while the economists consider the housing sector to be free of any “clear signs of stress”, they are not as sanguine as the Reserve Bank of Australia, given continued credit growth outstripping income growth.
“It’s not all plain sailing. Financial stability remains a medium-term concern, although there are yet to be any notable signs of distress and the recent slowdown in house price growth is encouraging. Nonetheless, we remain cautious given that credit growth continues to outstrip income growth,” the authors said.