Central Bank governor hints that new mortgage rules will be delayed

Honohan says concerns about a new property bubble were not the “driver” behind new proposals

Patrick Honohan said the Central Bank of Ireland’s plan to introduce new rules around mortgage lending might miss the original January 1st timeframe. Photo: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Patrick Honohan said the Central Bank of Ireland’s plan to introduce new rules around mortgage lending might miss the original January 1st timeframe. Photo: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

Ciarán Hancock, Finance Correspondent

The Central Bank of Ireland’s plan to introduce new rules around mortgage lending might miss the original January 1st timeframe set down by the regulator, Governor Patrick Honohan told an Oireachtas committee today.

Responding to a question from Fianna Fail’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath about the implications for mortgage lending from the Central Bank’s plan to limit mortgages to 80 per cent of the value of a property and to impose an income limit of three and a half times salary, Mr Honohan said: “I’m not sure we’ll be able to get them into effect by January 1st but we are not hanging around.”

The plans were initially announced in October with December 8th set as the deadline for submissions under a consultation process.

Mr Honohan told Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty that 2,800 mortgages issued in 2013 would have been affected by the proposed new lending rules. “It’s not like hundreds of thousands are affected by this,” he said. “That’s why it’s a good time to introduce it because the effects of it are only felt by a small number of people.”

Earlier in his opening statement to the committee, Mr Honohan said he hopes to announce a “finalised set of regulations” soon after December 8th “depending on the complexity of the responses received”.

He said recent concerns about a new property bubble emerging here were not the “driver” behind the new proposals.

“What we want to achieve by these measures is to have in place a standing regime which ensures that a credit-driven bubble does not take hold, and that a new generation does not become over indebted,” he added.

In the absence of such a regime, he said sharp price rises in Dublin -they jumped by 42 per cent in just 18 months - in a “thin market, not yet eliciting a sufficient supply response, could sow the seeds of trouble for the future”.

“Accordingly, after making any appropriate refinements (for example, in relation to first time buyers, and to the potential future use of private mortgage insurance as floated in the consultation paper), we will move quickly to confirm the parameters of the standing regime,” Mr Honohan said.

The governor accepted that variable interest rates are high relative to the ECB’s rate but said the Central Bank has no powers in the setting of rates.

He said the high rates were partly a factor of Irish banks seeking to compensate for loss-making trackers are they return to profitability and that competition is currently constrained with no new entrants seeking a licence.