Bank must burst housing bubble

Bank must burst housing bubble

Force buyers to find bigger deposits, says OECD think tank, to slow booming market that could put economic recovery at risk

Would-be housebuyers should have to put down bigger deposits and George Osborne’s Help to Buy scheme should be cut back, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said

By James Kirkup, and Steven Swinford

9:28PM BST 06 May 2014

The Bank of England should invoke new legal powers allowing it to rein in Britain’s booming housing market for the first time, an influential international think tank has said.

Would-be housebuyers should have to put down bigger deposits and George Osborne’s Help to Buy scheme should be cut back, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said.

The intervention from the OECD comes after senior figures at the Bank identified the housing market as the biggest threat to Britain’s financial stability.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has also called for new limits on the housing market, including legal curbs on wealthy foreigners seeking to buy property in London.

In a report on the global economy, the OECD raised its predictions for Britain’s economic growth, the latest forecaster to do so. It now expects Britain to grow by 3.2 per cent in 2014, up significantly from its last forecast of 2.4 per cent.

However, the think tank also raised concerns about the rapid increase in house prices that has accompanied the return to economic growth.

House prices are rising at more than 10 per cent a year, and some economists think that the increasing cost of buying homes is leading some buyers to take on unsustainable levels of debt. As the economy grows, the Bank is expected to start raising interest rates from their record low level of 0.5 per cent over the next year, pushing up mortgage costs.

As well as increasing interest rates across the economy, the Bank should take specific action to slow the housing market, the OECD said.

Under new laws passed by the Coalition, the Bank’s Prudential Regulatory Authority can limit banks’ freedom to lend to housebuyers if it thinks the market is becoming unsustainable.

The Bank should now use those powers, the OECD suggested.

“Monetary policy tightening should be accompanied by timely prudential measures to address the risks of excessive house price inflation,” the report said.

“Additional use of macroprudential and other tools to help ensure a balanced recovery in the housing market and contain household leverage should be considered, including tighter access to the Help to Buy programme and the introduction of higher capital requirements or low maximum loan-to-value ratios for mortgages.”

The OECD’s remarks come after regulators started moving to make it harder to get a mortgage. The Financial Conduct Authority this month told lenders to ask tougher questions about the lifestyle of mortgage applicants.

Questions from lenders about customers’ regular outgoings — including child care costs and even haircuts — could be included in affordability checks. Mortgage brokers have warned that the changes could lead to delays and rejections of applications.

The Bank has insisted that the market is not yet overheating.

However, Spencer Dale, the Bank’s new head of financial stability, last week identified the housing market as the biggest threat to financial recovery and said the country should be “nervous about what is going on in the housing market”.

Jon Cunliffe, a deputy governor at the Bank, has also said that it would be “dangerous” to ignore the rapid rise in house prices. The OECD’s suggestion that the Right to Buy scheme should be curtailed may add fuel to a debate within the Cabinet about the future of the programme, which offers buyers government guarantees for part of their mortgage, allowing some people to borrow up to 95 per cent of the value of their home.

Some ministers want the £600,000 ceiling for the value of properties that can be purchased under Help to Buy to be lowered, a suggestion the Chancellor has so far rejected.

Responding to the OECD report, Mr Osborne said the Bank was free to intervene if it thought it right. “This Government has given the Bank of England the powers to do that in an independent way. That didn’t exist before but we’ve learnt from the mistakes of the last Government,” he said. “The Bank of England has the tools and independence to do what it feels it needs to do to help to contribute to building that resilient economy.”

Mr Miliband, meanwhile, said that a Labour government would bring in laws to make it harder for foreign investors to buy property in London and then leave it empty.

Such speculative buying — to take advantage of rising prices — is making it harder for “ordinary” families to buy in the capital, Mr Miliband said.

Property developers should not be allowed to market homes “off plan” to foreign investors before they are offered to people in the UK, he said. Labour would also allow local authorities to double council tax for owners who leave properties empty for more than a year.

“There are big dangers of people being priced out of the housing market, not being paid enough to live on or indeed to live in London,” he told the London Evening Standard. “We’ve got to stop this phenomenon of empty properties being bought by overseas investors and nothing being done about it.”

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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