H.OMEOWNERS TEND choose more conservatively than tenants. But they’re happiest when house prices go up, and that makes it harder for first-time buyers to join the club. So the Tory governments are faced with a puzzle: How can new members be drawn into their natural constituency while house prices are kept going?
The prices were certainly brisk. Even the worst recession in at least a century failed to cool the market in 2020. According to the Bureau of National Statistics, house prices more than tripled in the two decades after 2000, while cash profits only doubled. Buying a home for the first time has rarely been more difficult. In the mid-2000s, even after the real estate price boom of the 1990s, the typical first-time buyer needed savings of around 30% of their annual income to offset the deposit required for a mortgage. Nowadays they have to scrape together a pot that is worth more than 70% of their income. The result was falling home ownership Prices among younger and now middle-aged Britons.
The government’s latest attempt at a solution, launched on April 19, aims to increase the supply of mortgages with a lending value (LTV) Ratio over 90%. In the exciting days of 2007, this type of high risk lending made up one-sixth of the market. That it never reached those heights again was seen as a good thing by regulators after a financial crisis for which it bears part of the blame. But after the pandemic caused lenders to stop almost all of their remaining highs LTV The government began to worry that tenants lacking large deposits would be permanently excluded from the housing market. And so the Ministry of Finance is now offering to insure new mortgages with LTV Ratios between 91% and 95% used to buy homes less than £ 600,000. She hopes government support will convince banks and building societies to lend more credit to first-time buyers who lack significant savings or to a wealthy mom and dad bank.
Still a flood of 95% LTV Mortgages covered by the Treasury are unlikely. First of all, there is no noise from potential borrowers for them. Richard Donnell, Research Director at Zoopla, a real estate website, notes that first time buyers have been able to make 5% deposits thanks to the Help to Buy program since 2013. Still, nearly half seemed cautious about taking on excessive debt and opting for higher payments on deposits instead. Meanwhile, some building societies that offer eligible mortgages are rejecting the government’s offer, citing the securitization restrictions.
Most importantly, Treasury guarantees do not lift regulatory restrictions on lenders to prevent a recurrence of pre-financial crisis excesses. Banks are allowed to use a maximum of 15% of their loans on mortgages that are more than 4.5 times the borrower’s income. Research by Neal Hudson of Residential Analysts, a consulting firm, shows the average UK first time buyer spends 4.6 times their income on buying. In expensive London the multiple is 5.4.
Only in the cheaper parts of the country can banks extend many mortgages to the average buyer with a 5% down payment, even if they choose to. In that case, they will face the higher capital requirements that are imposed on mortgages, theirs LTV Ratio is over 85%. You also need to show that the borrower can still afford to pay back their mortgage in a “stress-tested” scenario where the interest rate jumps three percentage points. Most will fail this test.
Mr Hudson describes this as “a tension between regulators and policymakers over where to strike the right balance between financial stability risk and home ownership”. As long as house prices stay at their current elevated income multiple, it is difficult to see how these tensions can be resolved. For now, and despite the new system, regulators have the upper hand.■
This article appeared in the UK section of the print edition under the heading “Regulator Says No”.