Reserve Bank boss says no 'free lunch' for housing investment as return of LVRs looms

Katie Bradford
Source: 1News

Investors be warned - the Reserve Bank says if its loan to value restrictions don't work, more will be put in place.

The central bank today kept the Official Cash Rate unchanged at 0.25 per cent.

The steady as it goes approach is largely due to a desire to protect the economy against global uncertainty, especially with borders likely to remain closed for much of the year and clogged supply chains causing some issues.

But this afternoon's press conference was dominated by questions about surging house prices.

Banks lent $9.6 billion to home buyers in December, a massive leap from the $6.5 billion in December 2019.

Investors borrowed more than $2.4 billion, the most since May 2016.

Governor Adrian Orr says he doesn't regret removing Loan to Value Restrictions last May.

Those restrictions - at a higher level - will return on March 1.

He says there's a "multitude of factors" contributing to soaring house prices, including more New Zealanders moving home and low interest rates.

"A lot of the demand for housing has passed its peak, supply will continue, LVRs are back on, particularly for investors," Mr Orr said.

"So I would be far more cautionary as someone thinking there was some kind of one sided bet or free lunch when it comes to investing in housing, that is far from the case. So watch this space."

A hint he thinks house prices will stabilise in coming months.

As for the return of the LVRs, and what it means for investors, he had this warning.

"We are confident that around the investor market, LVRs will be biting and if they aren't, we will continue to work until we are comfortable."

There are also concerns about the level of borrowing some house buyers are undertaking - and the risk that poses when and if interest rates rise.

The Reserve Bank's decision to keep the OCR as is - along with the Funding for Lending and money printing programmes - comes as inflation and employment remained below its target rates.

Mr Orr says if needed, more monetary stimulus, such as taking the OCR to zero, will happen.