Mortgage limits must stay in place, says Central Bank

Deputy governor says new rules are working and it is too soon to review them

Nine months on from the introduction of new mortgage limits, Central Bank deputy Governor Stefan Gerlach has said that the rules are "functioning as intended" and it is still too early to review them.

At a Central Bank workshop on Monday, Mr Gerlach said that macro-prudential instruments, such as those used to impose limits on Irish mortgage lending in February of this year, are needed and are becoming an “essential part” of policy makers’ toolkits alongside micro-prudential tools, in ensuring financial stability.

In February, the Central Bank imposed new mortgage lending rules which include income multiple limits of 3.5 times income, and loan-to-value limits of 80 per cent.

“The very limited evidence we so far have indicates that the measures are functioning as intended,” Mr Gerlach said, adding that there are a number of problems in the Irish housing market, in particular in relation to a lack of supply.

“Macro-prudential policy cannot solve these problems and they certainly cannot be resolved by risky lending: they can only be resolved by housing policy,” he said.

Noting that macro-prudential tools need to be “permanent features of the financial landscape”, Mr Gerlach did however concede that they will need to be assessed from time to time, but said that with respect to the new mortgage rules, it is not time to do so yet.

“As yet, it is still too early to do so since we do not expect to have sufficient data until mid-2016.”

Latest figures for the third quarter of the year show that the volume of new mortgage lending is falling year on year.