Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have revealed investor lending increased over February, but still remains below the highs seen during 2015 as the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) growth requirements continue their effect on the sector.

According to the ABS figures, $11.9bn worth of investment loans were written during February, which is 4.1% higher than the amount written during January, but 7.3% lower than the $12.8bn written through February 2015.

The owner occupier market saw $20.9bn worth of loans written during February, which is a 1.7% increase compared to January and 15.5% increase compared to February 2015.

Mortgage Choice chief executive John Flavell said the February increases were of little surprise.

“This month’s improvement in home loan demand was in line with expectations,” Flavell said.

“Home loan demand always tends to pick up after January, as people settle back into work and start to put their property plans or ambitions for the year ahead into practice,” he said.

While February saw month-on-month increases for lending to investors and owner occupiers, it appears they are using that finance for the purchase of established properties.

During the month, the number of loans for the construction of new dwellings eased back by 1.9% in seasonally-adjusted terms, while the number of loans for the purchase of new dwellings fell by 15.4%.

Compared with a year earlier, loans for dwelling construction were down by 2.8% and there was a 2.6% decline in the number of new dwelling purchase loans over the same period.

Housing Industry Association senior economist Shane Garrett said those figures are a further reinforcement of the idea the current construction boom is tapering off.

“The decline in new home loans during January and February is consistent with our view that new home building will moderate during 2016 from last year’s record highs even though the number of new home starts this year is still likely to be one of the highest on record,” Garrett said

“While the markets that have risen on the recent wave of construction are likely to continue to perform in the near-term, there is a risk that markets which didn’t fully participate in the boom may find this more painful. It is vital that state governments are prepared to step in and offer support to our industry as required over the next few years,” he said.

In total, 56,562 loans were written during February with a value of $32.8 billion, 6% higher than the $30.9 billion written in February 2015.