ICTU seeks help for mortgage arrears
THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has called for an independent office to be set up to rescue people unable to repay their mortgages and approve lower repayments.
Such an office would ensure that householders with mortgage difficulties are not reliant on the "grace and favour of banks" to keep their homes.
It claims that 66,000 households, containing 200,000 people, are in difficulty with their mortgages.
The call by ICTU follows the backing for a bailout for householders from leading international investment bank Citi.
Economists at Citi argued that rising defaults by households would lead to business bankruptcies and force banks here to get further bailouts from the State. This, in turn, would force the State to borrow more, putting further pressure on the euro.
Now ICTU's David Begg has told the Government's expert group on mortgage arrears that the State should set up a new office for debt resolution to avoid home repossessions.
The new agency would have the power to vary or revise existing mortgages to take account of changed circumstances, and would strike a balance between the rights of householders and the banks.
Mr Begg said: "It is not acceptable that hard-pressed households -- struggling with job loss and income cuts -- should be forced to rely on the grace and favour of banks to keep their homes.
"That is unfair and untenable, especially given the scale of the mortgage and debt problem.
"At the very least, householders in difficulty should have the right to know that there is a fair, independent way to deal with the problem.
"We envisage the office for debt resolution operating independently of the legal system, acting to strike a balance between the rights of householders and the banks," Mr Begg said.
ICTU referred to figures showing that 30,000 people are in arrears, and another 35,000 have availed of interest-only or repayment holiday deals.
This means there may be up to 200,000 people living in households that are in difficulty with their mortgage repayments, the trade union body said. Mr Begg said there seemed to be a "serious underestimation of the scale of the mortgage problem".