The latest private sector credit data from the Reserve Bank (RBA) shows that the expansion of housing credit continues to slow with both owner occupier and investor credit growth tracking lower in April.

The RBA recently released private sector credit figures for April 2018 and the data reiterates the ongoing slowing of demand for housing credit. Over the month, housing credit expanded by 0.4% which, when rounded, was the slowest monthly expansion in housing credit since June 2013. Over the past 12 months, housing credit has increased by 6.0% which is its slowest annual increase since March 2014. The first two charts show how in 2008 and 2013, when dwelling values were falling, the expansion of credit also slowed.

Monthly Change in Total Housing Credit

Monthly Change in Total Housing Credit.

Source: CoreLogic, RBA

Annual Change in Total Housing Credit

Annual Change in Total Housing Credit

Source: CoreLogic, RBA

Housing credit expansion is slowing for both owner occupiers and investors. Over the month, owner occupier credit increased by 0.6% while investor credit expanded by just 0.1%. Over the month, owner occupier credit expanded at its slowest monthly rate since December 2016 and investor credit expanded at its slowest pace since March 2016. In the recent housing market downturns, it has typically been investor credit growth that has slowed much more than owner occupier. Given that investors have been a substantial driver of housing demand over recent years, it is reasonable to expect that investor credit growth will slow further from here as values in the most investor-centric markets (Sydney and Melbourne) continue to fall.

On an annual basis, it is clear that the slowdown in investor credit growth is entrenched, while owner occupier housing credit has also slowed, but is holding firmer. Owner occupier credit expanded by 8.0% over the past year, its slowest annual expansion since January 2018 while investor credit grew by just 2.3% which is its slowest rate of annual growth since September 2016.

Monthly Change in Housing Credit
Owner Occupier vs. Investor

Monthly Change in Housing Credit Owner Occupier vs Investor

Source: CoreLogic, RBA

Annual Change in Housing Credit
Owner Occupier vs. Investor

Annual Change in Housing Credit Owner Occupier vs Investor

Source: CoreLogic, RBA

As at the end of April 2018 there was $2.827 trillion in credit outstanding to Australian authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs), Of this $2.827 trillion, $1.755 trillion or 62.1% was to residential housing with a further 32.5% to business and 5.4% for other personal credit. Although it has only occurred over the past two months, after trending higher for many years, the share of total credit that was for housing has edged lower. In previous housing market downturns, the share of outstanding credit to housing has fallen. Given this, the expectation is that the share of total credit for housing will continue to decline over the coming months as values continue to fall.

Share of Total Outstanding Credit to Australian ADIs
by Type

Share of Total Outstanding Credit by Australian ADIs

Source: CoreLogic, RBA

The slowdown in housing credit growth is being driven by a range different factors. Firstly, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) introduced a 10% speed limit on investor credit in December 2014 which has resulted in a slowing of investor credit growth. Although APRA have announced that this cap will be removed shortly it is unlikely that investor credit growth will accelerate in a meaningful way. Secondly, loan serviceability is now being calculated across the board based on an interest rate of at least 7% which has made accessing credit for some more difficult. APRA has also implemented a cap on interest-only lending of 30% of all new mortgages, this has led to a substantial drop in demand for this product which was largely used for investors. Finally, lenders are now typically charging premiums of 60 basis points on interest rates for investors compared to owner occupiers with premiums typically in excess of 100 basis points for investors with interest-only loans.

Although the 10% speed limit is set to be lifted from July 1st, the likelihood of a rebound in housing credit remain low. The 30% cap on interest-only lending has a much more broad based dampening effect on investor activity. Add to this the fact that APRA is now focusing more on minimising debt to income ratios higher than 6 and maintaining a focus on keeping low deposit lending to a minimum and banks are stepping up their scrutiny on borrower expenses and incomes. The net effect is likely to be further tightness in housing credit which will continue to constrict housing market activity and reduce prospects for price appreciation.