Mon, May 19, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Bank of England governor says UK housing market has ‘deep problems’

Reuters, LONDON

The British housing market has “deep, deep” structural problems, which pose the biggest current risk to the economy, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said in an interview.

“The issue around the housing market in the UK ... is there are not sufficient [numbers of] houses [being] built,” he told Sky television.

In extracts of the interview released by Sky ahead of its full broadcast yesterday, Carney noted that the number of large mortgages being approved is on the rise and said more houses needed to built in Britain.

“We’re not going to build a single house at the Bank of England,” he said. “We can’t influence that.”

“What we can influence ... is whether the banks are strong enough. Do they have enough capital against risk in the housing market?” he said.

Carney said the bank could also check lending procedures “so people can get mortgages if they can afford them, but they won’t if they can’t.”

“By reinforcing both of those, we can reduce the risk that comes from a housing market that has deep, deep structural problems,” he said.

Carney said there was evidence that large mortgages, where housebuyers are given loans up to four times their salaries, are on the rise again.

“We don’t want to build up another big debt overhang that is going to hurt individuals and is very much going to slow the economy in the medium term,” he said.

“We’d be concerned if there was a rapid increase in high loan-to-value mortgages across the banks. We’ve seen that creeping up and it’s something we’re watching closely,” he added.

Last week, the bank played down the chances of an imminent rate rise despite fears of a growing house-price bubble.

“The biggest risk to financial stability, and therefore to the durability of the expansion, centers on the housing market and that’s why we’re focused on that,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development called on the bank to impose measures to help slow rising house prices.

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