'No one needs to lose their home' - 14,000 in arrears given hope
A change in eligibility criteria could see 14,000 homeowners in mortgage arrears qualify for inclusion under the Government's new mortgage-to-rent scheme.
It means that nobody should lose their home as a new era dawns with the banks, according to an expert.
"Thousands of people in serious arrears have suffered years of anxiety and isolation, but there is a new reality which now concentrates on finding a solution in almost every case," said Paul Cunningham, the CEO of Government-sanctioned company Home For Life (HFL).
HFL is spearheading a drive to let mortgage holders in unsustainable debt stay in their current homes debt free, as long-term tenants.
"In my experience, lenders don't want to instigate court proceedings - they want to do a deal and move on," he said.
"Such deals include local authorities taking over the house on a confidential basis, which means no one need ever know there has been a switch to renting."
The company works with homeowners, lenders and local authorities. Under the scheme, a property is sold to a provider like Home For Life and then leased back to the State through the local authority. This in turn sublets the house or apartment back to the dweller, who pays an affordable income-based rent.
"We have encountered widespread distress among homeowners, many of whom believe they have failed their families because they couldn't keep up payments.
"Unfortunately, many cases involve people in extreme stress simply because no one told them there was another way out of what seemed to be an impossible malaise.
"The Government has recognised that there needs to be a genuine alternative for people who have been unable to pay their mortgage for at least two years, and the mortgage-to-rent scheme is totally focussed on keeping families in their homes," Mr Cunningham said.
The updated mortgage to rent scheme has seen significant extra numbers become eligible following changes in valuation thresholds for properties. There has also been a widening of the plan so that properties with two spare bedrooms could qualify.
A further change has seen the introduction of private companies, bringing extra capital to operate the scheme.
"This scheme can deal with your debt and keep your family in your home with the prospect of buying it back in the event of your circumstances changing," he added.
"As a result, no one who is eligible for mortgage to rent needs to lose their home. Even if you have been rejected for mortgage to rent in the past, changes to the scheme could mean that you now qualify.
"There is a big window of opportunity, but it can only happen when householders get in touch with their banks or lenders to initiate the process. The rule of thumb is that there is a solution for everybody in mortgage distress."
Fr Peter McVerry, who is a member of the advisory board of HFL, said at the last meeting: "I am all in favour of initiatives that keep people in their homes. I fully support the efforts of mortgage to rent."