Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Questions (110)

Bernard Durkan


110. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which mortgage interest rates here compare with those applicable in other jurisdictions throughout the European Union; when the rates charged are likely to converge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25842/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The latest data on Retail Interest Rates published by the Central Bank (which was released on 14 June 2019) show that the average interest rate in Ireland on all new mortgages agreed in April 2019 was 3.03%. This interest rate varied considerably across countries, with the average for the euro area being 1.70%. A link to the publication is below:

The European Central Bank (ECB) sets monetary policy and official interest rates for the Eurozone as a whole and also plays a key role in the prudential supervision of European banks and the maintenance of the stability of the overall banking system in the context of the Single Supervisory Mechanism. It is a matter for each credit institution to set its own lending and deposit rates having regard to cost and competitive considerations and also to make its own lending decisions.

As the Deputy is aware, a number of factors contribute to the differential between Irish mortgage rates and those in other countries including the relatively large historical loss experience in the Irish market during the financial crisis and the related legacy issues of non-performing loans. In Ireland there is a relatively high level of non-performing loans in the banking system. Banks are required to make adequate provisions for such loans.

Banks are also required to hold an adequate level of capital against mortgage lending. These capital requirements are calculated with reference to historical loss and default rates. The high levels of mortgage default experienced by Irish banks in the aftermath of the financial crisis mean that Irish banks are required to hold relatively more capital for new mortgage lending than many of their European peers, in some cases substantially more capital.

In addition to their capital requirements banks are also required to build up additional capital to meet regulatory capital buffers such as the countercyclical capital buffer which is intended to ensure banks can withstand future adverse economic shocks.

The impact of these capital requirements is reflected in the interest rates charged for mortgages in Ireland.

Furthermore, the Irish banking system continues to hold a large amount of lower yielding tracker mortgages on their balance sheets and there is currently a high level of concentration in the market for new mortgage credit.

As I have mentioned before, the Central Bank has introduced a number of changes to the Consumer Protection Code that are designed to help consumers make savings on their mortgage repayments; for example, provision 6.5 (g) of the Code now requires lenders at least annually to, inter alia, notify their variable interest (other than tracker) mortgage customers whether they can move to a cheaper interest rate as a result of a change in their loan to value interest rate band and, if the customer is permitted to move, to invite the borrower to contact the lender to discuss the matter. If the consumer is not permitted to move to a lower loan to value band with a lower interest rate, the consumer is nevertheless to be notified that he/she may be able to avail of a lower loan to value interest rate band from another lender based on an up to-date valuation of the property. It should also be noted that the Central Bank macro prudential loan to value and loan to income residential mortgage lending restrictions do not apply to switcher mortgages. More generally, the Code also requires lenders at least annually to provide to variable rate (excluding tracker) mortgage holders:-

- a summary of other mortgage products offered by that lender which could provide savings for the consumer at that point in time,

- a statement that consumers should keep their mortgage arrangements under review as there may be other options that could provide savings for the borrower and

- a link to the relevant section of the Competition and Consumer Protection website relating to mortgage switching or changing mortgage type