U.S. mortgage lending is contracting to levels not seen since 1997 as rising interest rates and home prices drive away borrowers, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, Bloomberg reported. Lenders made $226 billion of mortgages in the first quarter, the smallest quarterly amount since 1997 and less than one-third of the 2006 average. Lending has been tumbling since mid-2013 when mortgage rates rose about a percentage point after the Federal Reserve said it might taper stimulus spending. A surge in all-cash purchases to more than 40 percent has kept housing prices rising, squeezing more Americans out of the market. That will help push lending down further this year, according to the association.