Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe is not concerned that a possible housing price bubble is being created against the backdrop of extremely low interest rates and government support measures.
Recent figures show housing prices and demand for mortgages are at record highs, while new Australian Bureau of Statistics data on Wednesday showed building approvals for private houses have also struck a new peak.
At the same time, a separate report showed the construction sector is enjoying its best performance in over three years.
During an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Dr Lowe was asked whether he was worried about the rise in house prices and asset prices more generally.
“At the moment, not especially so,” Dr Lowe replied.
“It’s possible that housing prices will rise further.”
He did not see the state of the housing market being unsustainable, noting that population growth is at its lowest since 1916, but added the issue for the central bank would be if people didn’t borrow sensibly.
Dr Lowe’s first public appearance came the day after the Reserve Bank kept the cash rate at a record low 0.1 per cent for another month, and predicted interest rates were unlikely to rise until 2024.
The ABS said private sector house approvals rose for the sixth consecutive month in December, reaching a record high.
It said 13,638 private sector houses were approved in December, a 15.8 per cent increase compared to November and 55.6 per cent higher than a year earlier.
The Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association performance of construction index also rose by a further 2.3 points to 57.6 in the past two months, indicating four consecutive months of positive conditions.
This was the strongest result since July 2017.
HIA economist Angela Lillicrap said new orders in the house building sector remained at a record high in January, consistent with other indicators, including housing finance and new home sales.
“HomeBuilder was the catalyst for consumer confidence in the market improving and this has been enhanced by several factors including low interest rates and growth in house prices,” she said.
The federal government is also opening up the opportunity for about 1800 would-be first home buyers to get on board the housing market with a deposit of as little as five per cent.
The government’s first home loan deposit scheme, which guarantees a loan for a first-time buyer, has already seen 15,000 applicants settled and moved in to their home since January 2020.
The scheme runs until June 30, 2021.
To further support first home buyers, the government will reissue unused guarantees from the 2019/20 financial year from buyers who have since been unable to complete their purchase of their first home.
“This represents a great opportunity for around 1800 buyers to now enter the property market sooner,” Housing Minister Michael Sukkar said.
“First home buyers will be able to apply for these guarantees from the scheme’s lending panel lenders in the coming days.”
He pointed to recent ABS data that showed first home buyers were entering the market at the highest rate since 2009, with loan commitments 56.6 per cent higher than the same time last year.