Thursday, January 31, 2008

Comptroller Dugan Expresses Concern About CRE Concentrations

by Bill McBride on 1/31/2008 02:15:00 PM

From the Comptroller of the Currency John C. Dugan: Comptroller Dugan Expresses Concern About Commercial Real Estate Concentrations

Comptroller of the Currency John C. Dugan told a bank conference today that the OCC is focusing increased attention on problems arising from high community bank concentrations in commercial real estate (CRE) at a time of significant market disruptions and declining house and condominium sales and values.

“The combination of these conditions is putting considerable stress on one particular category of commercial real estate lending: residential construction and development – and other categories of CRE loans will feel similar stress if general economic activity slows materially,” Mr. Dugan said in a speech before a meeting of the Florida Bankers Association.

In the area of construction and development (C&D) loans, nonperforming loans in community national banks amounted to 1.96 percent of the total at the end of the third quarter, double the rate of the year before.

“Although starting from an admittedly very low baseline, an increase like this – over 100 percent in a single year – is clearly a trend that we need to monitor closely,” Mr. Dugan said.
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In recent years, the Comptroller said, banks had become too complacent regarding the potential for significant stresses in these markets, and CRE concentrations rose significantly in many banks. The ratio of commercial real estate loans to capital has nearly doubled in the past six years, he said.

“Even more significant than this overall industry statistic is the number of individual banks that have especially large concentrations,” Mr. Dugan added. “Over a third of the nation’s community banks have commercial real estate concentrations exceeding 300 percent of their capital, and almost 30 percent have construction and development loans exceeding 100 percent of capital.”
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“In terms of asset quality, our horizontal reviews have indeed confirmed a significant increase in the number of problem residential construction and development loans in community banks across the country,” the Comptroller added.
As I noted last week, with the failure of Douglass National Bank in Kansas City, the housing bust hasn't hurt most small banks and institutions because the banks didn't hold many of the residential mortgages they originated. Instead the small to mid-sized institutions focused on commercial real estate (CRE) and construction and development (C&D) loans, so rising CRE and C&D defaults will impact community banks much more than rising residential mortgage defaults.

Note: Dugan was one of the first regulators to express concern about non-traditional mortgages, especially Option ARMs.