Mortgage stress is still a problem despite low interest rates, with a high proportion of low-income households at risk of not keeping up with their payments
Source:
AAP
25 Aug 2016 - 5:04 PM  UPDATED 25 Aug 2016 - 5:04 PM

Indicators of mortgage stress may not be heading skyward, but low interest rates haven't made the problem go away, a new survey shows.

Roy Morgan Research chief executive Michele Levine says the average level of mortgage stress has not risen much in the past few years as rising housing prices and loan sizes have been offset by falling interest rates

"So the mortgage stress numbers are not showing massive increases," she said on Thursday at the launch of a new report on financial stress.

The report showed that 18.4 per cent of home buyers with a mortgage were classed as "at risk" - that is, they would have trouble paying off their mortgage as planned - with three quarters of them likely to struggle even to pay the interest.

But the level of risk is greatly affected by income, Ms Levine said.

Higher income earners are less likely to be at risk, and typically have larger loans.

"By the time you get to household incomes of $150,000, mortgage stress is just not really a serious issue."

So with only 0.4 per cent of those in the higher income group classed as at risk, a large proportion of the total dollar value of loans was not seen as at risk.

However Ms Levine said there were many people at the lower income end of borrowers who were at risk, meaning "very little dollars but lots of people".

"People with under $60,000 of income - 83 per cent will be at risk of not being able to pay off their mortgage, 68 per cent are at risk of not even being able to pay the interest," Ms Levine said.

Finance sector researcher Digital Finance Analytics updated its analysis of mortgage stress this week and came to a similar conclusion.

"Contrary to what might be thought, whilst the ultra-low mortgage rates are easing the finances of some households, mortgage stress still exists, and it's iron hand is being felt by more than 21 per cent of households," DFA's Martin North said.

And the Centre for Social Impact, in conjunction with National Australia Bank, published its report on financial resilience based on Roy Morgan Research data.

The CSI report found one in nine adults were suffering high or severe financial stress or vulnerability.