State 'not doing enough to help homeowners'
THE outgoing Government has been accused of dragging its feet on proposals to revamp a state support scheme for mortgage holders in trouble.
Almost seven months after the Department of Social Protection accepted the recommendations of a review it commissioned into the mortgage interest supplement scheme, the changes have yet to be made. Housing charity Respond said it was critical the changes were made after lenders again raised mortgage rates.
Mortgage interest supplement provides short-term support for homeowners in financial difficulty with mortgage interest payments.
Some 18,000 families are getting the support, a five-fold increase on the numbers four years ago.
The payment covers only the interest portion of a mortgage, with average payments last year of €304 a month.
Mortgage experts have warned that numbers turning to the Government this year for help will rise alongside interest rates.
Housing charity Respond said it was more important than ever to revamp the scheme as it claimed that nearly 100,000 homeowners were struggling with mortgage repayments.
Latest figures from the Central Bank show that 40,000 people have not been able to repay their mortgage for three months or more while another 30,000 families who are not in arrears have had to do a deal with their lender to get the monthly repayments down.
Respond spokeswoman Aoife Walsh said the number of families struggling on a monthly basis is set to increase during 2011 as incomes continue to fall and interest rates increase.
The only state assistance for these homeowners was mortgage interest supplement but only 18,000 are accessing it currently, a fraction of the real number in difficulty, she said.
"The main reason for this is the strict qualifying criteria, many of which are unrealistic in the current environment.