Trends in households' aggregate secured debt

Quarterly Bulletin 2003 Q3
Published on 26 September 2003

By Rob Hamilton of the Bank's Structural Economic Analysis Division.

The aggregate level of households' secured debt relative to their income has increased by about a quarter over the past five years, and has almost tripled since 1980. Using a simple model, this article concludes that much of this increase can be accounted for by the spread of homeownership and the fall in inflation (which has reduced the rate at which households' real debt burden is eroded over time). However, the model is unable to account for the full extent of the recent increase in secured borrowing growth. The model also suggests that, because only a relatively small fraction of the housing stock changes hands each year, the aggregate level of debt responds relatively slowly to changes in house prices. So the recent increases in house prices could lead to continuing increases in the debt to income ratio over the next five to ten years.

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