KUALA LUMPUR: The local financial sector, which plays a key role in supporting home ownership, approved more than 365,000 home loans valued at RM158 billion last year.

Of this, 53 per cent were to first time home buyers and over 100,000 accounts for the purchase of affordable homes priced less than RM300,000, Bank Negara Malaysia said in its 2019 Annual Report.

The central bank said it had established the RM1 billion Fund for Affordable Homes in 2018 to complement financing by the industry.

As at January this year, the fund was fully utilised, enabling more than 4,700 households to buy their first homes in conjunction with the government’s Home Ownership Campaign.

“Following the full utilisation of the fund, first-time home buyers continue to have access to financing from the banking system, with seven out of every 10 housing loan applications approved by banks,” it added.

The central bank said purchasing a home was a big commitment for any household and often the single largest investment for many.

Therefore, financial access initiatives were also complemented by efforts to promote responsible borrowing.

“During the year, we worked with Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit to roll out an online financial education module called Rumahku.

“The module has helped 40,000 individuals improve understanding on financial commitments related to home ownership and borrow within their means.”

Bank Negara said the module had received positive feedback, with 90 per cent of participants satisfied with the content.

In October 2019, Bank Negara expanded the eligibility criteria for businesses seeking assistance under the small debt resolution scheme (SDRS).

The expansion enabled the scheme to assist dormant or terminated businesses with alternative sources of income to restructure their financing obligations.

“The goal is to avoid bankruptcy among SMEs and assist them in settling debt obligations prior to legal action.

“Since its inception, the SDRS has facilitated the restructuring of over 1,190 business accounts, amounting to more than RM1.6 billion in the financing,” Bank Negara said.