Michael Noonan seeks mortgage data release

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is set to increase pressure on the Central Bank to publish data which shows how much mortgage lending is being conducted outside of the rules banks are required to abide by.

Under the rules introduced by the Central Bank last year, banks have the discretion to exempt a certain percentage of loans from the lending restrictions.

Banks can exempt 15% of qualifying loans from the loan-to-value limit and 20% from the loan-to-income limit which means borrowers would either have to provide a smaller deposit or could be allowed to borrow a higher multiple of their income.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has asked the regulator to publish data which shows the extent to which these exemptions are being utilised.

With the Central Bank currently seeking submissions to its review of the lending rules, Mr Doherty claims these figures should be made available to inform that process.

“It is simply not good enough that the Central Bank is looking for evidence- based submission while they sit on that evidence.

“We need [to know] whether it is these rules which require a 20% deposit for non-first time buyers and apply a cap of three and half times a family’s income on a mortgage that are preventing young families and others who wish to buy a house from doing so or whether the banks are hiding behind these rules and simply not lending to some people,” Mr Doherty said.

The data would help clarify if the banks are using their discretion to make a small number of large loans or whether it is being used to help families on lower incomes which narrowly disqualify for a mortgage.

The pressure on the Central Bank to publish the data is set to increase with the confirmation that officials in Mr Noonan’s department will seek to have the figures made public.

Speaking in the Dáil, Department of Finance junior minister Eoghan Murphy said officials would write to the bank “to suggest that it would be helpful” if the figures were published. This, he said, would assist respondents in making evidence-based submissions to the Central Bank’s consultation process.

He added that the exceptions were not targets that had to be reached, however.

“If these figures are not released, I believe the public trust in this review will be undermined and rightly so. Any debate about these rules should be well informed one,” Mr Doherty said.

A spokesperson for the Central Bank confirmed it is in correspondence with Mr Doherty on the matter.


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