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Building society lending shrinks 19 per cent in first quarter of 2020

Christina Hoghton
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Christina Hoghton

Lending in the second quarter of this year is expected to be lower, but mutuals are well placed to weather the storm

Building societies’ gross mortgage lending in the three months to March shrank by 19 per cent compared to the previous year, according to the Building Societies Association’s (BSA).

Gross lending was £13.5bn in Q1 2020, representing a 21 per cent market share. This compares to £16.7bn advanced over the same period last year.

The number of approved mortgages also fell in the quarter. Some 101,000 new mortgage loans were given the green light, a decline of 16 per cent compared to Q1 2019 when 121,000 were approved.

This latest lending update means building societies have a 23 per cent market share of outstanding mortgage balances at £336.6bn, up three per cent on the £327.3bn of homeloans held at the end of Q1 2019.

Lending expected to fall

BSA head of mortgages and housing Paul Broadhead said: “Building societies performed well in the first quarter of the year, approving nearly a quarter of new mortgages in the UK during the period.

“Lending activity was beginning to pick up following uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU at the end of January. However the coronavirus outbreak has understandably paused any momentum.

“With the housing market effectively halted between the end of March and end of May, lending activity in the second quarter of the year will be materially lower than normal.

“However, building societies are well placed and resilient enough to weather the storm and are preparing to ramp up lending now that the housing market is beginning to reopen,” he added.

Savings balances held by building societies grew year on year in Q1 by four per cent from £284.7bn in 2019 to £297.3bn.

The BSA said that early evidence indicated the support of the government furlough scheme, coupled with reduced spending during the lockdown period, may promote further growth in cash savings.