Australian Mortgage Rules Slow Investor Growth to Three-Year Low

Growth in Australian mortgages to landlords slowed to the weakest in almost three years, indicating regulators’ efforts to tighten lending to investors are starting to pay dividends.

The value of mortgages to investors fell 0.4 percent in August from July and grew 12 percent from the previous year, the slowest annual expansion since December 2012, according to data released Friday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The slowdown in investor mortgages is welcome news for regulators, who have called the market imbalanced. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in December urged lenders to limit investor home-loan growth to 10 percent a year and in July it said the largest banks would need to increase the capital they need to hold against potential losses on mortgages from July 2016.

“Regulatory measures are helping to contain risks that may arise from the housing market,” central bank Governor Glenn Stevens said Tuesday after keeping interest rates at a record-low 2 percent. That was a departure from his previous comments that policy makers are working with regulators to stem risks.

Loans to investors as a proportion of total mortgages -- a ratio that was a concern for regulators -- dropped below 50 percent in August for the first time since July 2014. The measure fell to 48.5 percent from a peak of 53.5 percent in May.

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