Reserve Bank may can loan-to-value restrictions

The Reserve Bank has kept the Official Cash Rate (OCR) on hold at 1.75 percent, saying inflation remains subdued and low house prices are expected to continue.

And the Bank hinted the housing market may have eased enough for low-deposit loan restrictions to be removed.

The rampant housing market has cooled off - with loan-to-value restrictions (LVRs), high prices and reduced demand from overseas all playing a part.

That means LVRs could be on their way out.

"We're certainly reviewing the restrictions and the criteria we would adopt for their removal," says Reserve Bank acting governor Grant Spencer.

LVRs limited low-deposit mortgage lending by banks and were only ever intended to be temporary.

"If we're looking to remove them, it wouldn't be done in one hit, it would be a gradual, more cautious approach," Mr Spencer says.

But economist Cameron Bagrie says LVRs are likely to remain in place until at least May next year.

"The property market has got the potential to re-surface and lift again in 2018, that's been the historical experience after an election," he says.

"So I think the Reserve Bank will want another six month read on the property market."

In its first OCR review since Labour and NZ First formed a coalition, the Bank took into account four new Government policies:

  • Government spending initiatives, like the Families Package
  • Kiwibuild
  • Changes to visa requirements reducing arrivals by 30,000
  • A minimum wage increase to $20 an hour by 2021

Despite the spending the Bank predicts inflation is likely to remain at the midpoint of its target at 2 percent.

"The impact of these policies is a first estimate and the numbers remain very uncertain," Mr Spencer says.

National says the Reserve Bank's operating in a vacuum.

"There has been no detail of what the expenditure all adds up to," says National's finance spokesman Steven Joyce.

The Government says the detail is coming.

"We will be stimulating the economy, we think that's a good thing to do," says Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

In the meantime, home owners can rest assured that any increase to the OCR is likely to be 12 months away, at least, so interest rates should stay put as well.