In a recent letter to all Australian authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) entitled ‘Embedding Sound Residential Lending Practices,’ APRA indicated that lenders need to limit lending at very high debt to income levels.  The actual wording of the comment was, APRA expects ADIs to commit to developing internal risk appetite limits on the proportion of new lending at very high debt to income levels (where debt is greater than 6 times a borrower’s income), and policy limits on maximum debt to income levels for individual borrowers.  This doesn’t suggest that there is any hard limit on loan to income (LTI) ratios above 6 times but it does suggest that there will be less appetite for mortgages which are in excess of 6 times incomes.

Utilising gross household income data that has been modelled by the Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Social Research and Methods we can take a look across the individual capital cities at what the impact of limiting debt to income ratios to six times would be.  The following charts look at annual gross household incomes with a comparison to median values at the end of 2017.  Incomes are elevated six times for comparison to median prices.  The high median value relative to incomes implies the typical Sydney household would probably be targeting properties across the lower quartile of values rather than around the middle of the valuation range. 

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Six times the median gross household income in Sydney is calculated at $688,764.  The median house value in Sydney is $1,058,306 and the median unit value is $774,124.  What this means is that if a buyer wanted to purchase the median house under this scenario they would need a deposit of $369,542 and for the median unit they’d need a deposit of $85,360. 

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At the end of 2017, Melbourne’s median house value was $832,735 and the median unit value was $574,052.  At the same time, the median gross household income was $1,553/week with six times this annual income was recorded at $605,787.  Based on these figures, at 6 times income, borrowers in Melbourne can still afford the median unit but would need a deposit of $226,948 to be able to borrow below six times their income for the median house.

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Unlike Sydney and Melbourne, households on the median income in Brisbane can still afford to borrow enough for the median valued house or unit.  The borrowing power for someone on the median income is $608,830 which is lower than both the median house ($531,248) and median unit ($383,752) value. 
 

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The typical household in Adelaide can still afford the median house and unit.  As at December 2017 the median house cost $458,806 and the median unit $331,325.  Based on the median gross household income of $1,277/week someone on this income could borrow up to $498,161.
 

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Based on the median household income for Perth, someone borrowing six times their annual income could borrow $616,088.  Based on this figure, a borrower purchasing the median property would be comfortably below six times their annual income whether they’re purchasing a houses ($484,562) or a unit ($408,488). 

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A borrower in Hobart on the gross household income ($1,248/week) borrowing six times their annual income could borrow up to $486,823.  The $486,823 figure is lower than the median house ($424,251) and median unit ($335,289) value for Hobart. 

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Median household incomes in Darwin are quite high at $2,200/week.  Based on a borrower’s ability to borrow six times the household income, the median household could borrow up to $858,063.  Median house value ($469,083) and median unit values ($356,992) are significantly lower than $858,063. 

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Like Darwin, Canberra also has relatively high median household incomes at $2,170/week.  Someone borrowing six times the annual income would be able to borrow up to $846,358 which is significantly higher than the median house and unit values which are recorded at $669,642 and $431,048.
Of course median values don’t tell the whole story, as many properties are valued below as there are above however, it is valuable in providing a guide for what impact limiting high loan to income lending would have.  

In Sydney the median household can’t afford the median house or unit if there was a LTI limit of 6 times and in Melbourne the median household can’t afford the median house.  Were hard limits on LTI to be implemented it would have a much bigger impact on Sydney and Melbourne than any other areas of the country.  Any limit would still have some impact on households outside of Sydney and Melbourne, not to mention those that are purchasing properties additional to their principal place of resident.

Also keep in mind that these figures are only looking at a single scenario.  In most instances a lender will not allow a borrower to borrow 100% of the value of a property and if a borrower has a deposit of less than 20% they will need to pay lenders mortgage insurance (LMI).

So far there is no indication of a hard cap on LTI ratios.  What is clear is that APRA would like to see high LTI lending dialled back and that will have an impact on some borrowers, particularly those purchasing more expensive properties and/or those that have multiple properties.