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European banks need to come up with better ideas or else…

Autor: Article based upon analysis from Reuters Breakingviews | Link: Bank mortgage tweaks presage bigger political hit
Timp de citit: 2 minute

Central banks are increasing interest rates to control inflation, forcing mortgage costs to grow as well.

European governments, already spending tens of billions of Euros keeping energy costs low, can’t do much themselves to help homeowners.

In Spain, where home ownership is high and floating-rate loans are common, steeper interest payments immediately diminish the disposable income.

In Spain, CaixaBank has proposed a sector-wide, year-long freeze on variable mortgages rates for vulnerable customers.

In the UK, interest rates are rising much faster than in the Euro Zone. Here, 1.8 million fixed-rate loans are set to expire next year.

Those borrowers could end up refinancing their mortgages at a 6% interest rate or more, compared with the average existing fixed rate of 2.1%.

In their turn, British banks seem to be prepared to offer short-term payment moratoria to struggling borrowers.

Both the British and Spanish plans are targeted towards borrowers at risk of missing payments rather than most customers, who can cut on spending elsewhere to pay their loans on time.

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At current rates, paying off an 80% loan-to-value mortgage against the average UK house would consume 60% of median disposable income, compared with under 40% for most of the past decade.

That’s arguably the borrowers’ problem, not the lenders. And central banks may be already taking into consideration this problem, precisely to stop inflation.

Yet, politicians may not be ready to tolerate such burden on their voters.

Political leaders may also reason that banks could share some of their borrowers’ pain, since rising rates also means rising lending margins.

A left-wing partner in the Spanish coalition government is pushing for a much tougher interest-rate cap, news agency EFE reported.

In Poland, the government told banks to offer mortgage holidays. Citi analysts estimate these could cost biggest lender PKO Bank Polski a 560 million Euro loss, which is more than half of the 2021 earnings.

Unless banks in bigger economies come up with something more persuasive, politicians in Britain and Spain may consider taking a closer look at Poland.