NEW ORLEANS, NOV. 8 -- The Department of Veteran Affairs said today that it will tighten its lending standards on VA home mortgage loans, demanding higher income levels by prospective home buyers and proof of stable income.

Keith Pedigo, VA director of loan guaranty service, said at a National Association of Realtors (NAR) conference here that his department plans to add 8 percent to the amount of residual income that borrowers must have in order to qualify for a loan.

Deputy director Alan Schneider added in a telephone interview that changes in the VA's lending guidelines, which will be put in regulatory form in the next four to six weeks, will also include requirements for lenders to provide more specific data on the length of time an applicant is employed. This would show the stability of an applicant's income.

Addressing a committee of the NAR at its annual convention, Pedigo said the VA was adjusting its guidelines to account for an increase in household expenses. He cited a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that expenses in the typical household have risen 8 percent in the last year.

The VA defines disposable income as the amount of money a borrower has left over after paying for essential items such as housing, food and clothing. The agency currently requires that a family of four must have at least $773 of monthly disposable income to qualify for a mortgage up to $70,000.

The new guideline would raise that figure by $61.84 to $834.84.

Pedigo said the VA will also change the rules for borrowers whose total debt payments are more than 45 percent of their income, and whose residual income is less than 20 percent of total income. For these borrowers the agency will require a lending company officer to certify that the loan is good.