Brokers and lenders have defended Abbey’s 5 x income product following the lashing the deal received in the national media last week.The product, which offers potential borrowers a loan up to 5 x their income, was announced in the face of 17.3 million first-time buyers being unable to get onto the property ladder. It met with criticism from people who fear that this will add to the country’s growing personal debt mountain. Vincent Cable MP, shadow chancellor for the Liberal Democrats, says: “The announcement of this mortgage offer is alarming. It’s likely that these irresponsible lending practices will lead to financial disaster for many people. “While banks claim they are trying to help first-time buyers, in reality this will put home ownership out of the reach of more people.” But the mortgage industry argues against this criticism, ex-plaining that although Abbey made the front pages its offer is far from scandalous. Ray Boulger, senior technical manager at John Charcol, says: “This isn’t a revolutionary product. The ability to borrow more than 5 x your income has been around for a while. Abbey is just the first put it in black and white. “The question is – how much more can lenders offer? With interest rates at around 6%, higher multiples are perfectly acceptable.” Abbey is not alone in extending its income multiples. Earlier this year the Yorkshire revealed it was willing to offer loans at 5 x multiple or single incomes. Other lenders also stretch their income multiples, but under tight restrictions.