Working Paper N° 332

Pockets of risk in the Belgian mortgage market: Evidence from the Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS)

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Abstract

This paper complements macroeconomic indicators for macroprudential policy with information from microeconomic survey data from the Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS), to identify pockets of risk in the Belgian mortgage market. It takes into account distributional aspects of debt and assets, with a special focus on the coverage of households’ mortgage debt by (liquid) financial assets. It identifies the share of outstanding mortgage debt that is possibly at risk, and the parts of the population most affected, on the basis of income and assets-related debt indicators.

The first finding is that some groups of households have problems servicing their debt out of their income and some lack the financial resources to cope with income loss. The second finding is that Belgian households’ considerable financial wealth is (very) unequally distributed, and that therefore this wealth covers their outstanding mortgage debt only to a limited extent. As a consequence, a severe unemployment shock could hurt many mortgage-indebted households, involving a significant part of total outstanding mortgage debt in Belgium. All in all, this paper shows that survey data can complement macro data for macroprudential policy purposes.