Belfast Telegraph

Warning over viability of mortgage guarantees

BY JOHN COLLINGRIDGE

Plans to prop up the housing market with a mortgage guarantee must be a short-term measure to avoid causing another financial crisis, the Bank of England's deputy governor has warned.

The Government plans to extend its Help to Buy stimulus scheme by guaranteeing home loans from January -- shifting the risk of borrower default from lenders on to the state.

Paul Tucker told MPs that a medium or long-term mortgage guarantee would be dangerous after warnings it could inflate another property bubble.

Giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, he said: "I do not think it would be wise in the medium and long-term.

"This country has had an active housing market without a government subsidy.

"I'm absolutely sure that that structure helped brew the bubble that blew up the world in 2007 and 2008.

"This is not a market that needs a permanent subsidy."

The first part of Help to Buy, interest-free equity loans of up to 20% launched in April, has been credited with spurring a housing market recovery and lifting mortgage approvals.

The second part aims to support £130bn of mortgages.

Mr Tucker said he was pleased the Government asked the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) -- the bank's arm devoted to ensuring financial stability -- to report back on the guarantee after three years.

His warning follows criticism from former bank governor Sir Mervyn King over the scheme being too similar to home loan guarantees from failed US government lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Mr Tucker said: "They are devices for getting out of a hole to dig another one for the future."

Mr Tucker, who is a member of the FPC, added that it is "absolutely nothing to do with us whether this (Help to Buy) is a good use of taxpayers' money or not".

He said the FPC could force banks to hold more capital if it saw Help to Buy inflating a housing bubble, but would have no powers to end the scheme.

Mr Tucker also fought back over complaints from lenders being forced to speed up strengthening their finances.

The Bank's Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) recently demanded Barclays and Nationwide draw up plans to meet a 3% leverage ratio, a simple calculation which measures a lender's capital as a percentage of its loans.

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