Thursday 26 April 2018

Taoiseach under fire for phasing out existing mortgage supports

Lyndsey Telford

THE Taoiseach has defended plans to phase out existing support for householders struggling to pay their mortgage.

Enda Kenny came under fire for scaling back the mortgage interest supplement scheme, which eases the repayment burden for 19,000 homeowners.

"It is the banks who get this money. This year it will cost about €50 million," said Mr Kenny.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach confirmed a new Personal Insolvency Bill will be published this Friday, which allows for borrowers to negotiate deals with bankers on how to manage their debt.

"This recommendation was made as part of the Keane Report," the Taoiseach said.

"It is an incentive for banks to sit down with their borrowers to work out solutions with people getting into mortgage arrears."

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said withdrawing Government support in the form of the mortgage interest supplement and leaving it to bankers to support individuals was a disgrace.

"A very practical scheme has been cut and has been phased out," said Mr Martin.

"Will you repeal that statutory instrument? It's the honourable thing to do, it's the right thing to do by low-income families."

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton last week signed an order restricting access to the mortgage interest supplement, which has helped thousands of low income families meet their monthly repayments.

The scheme helps householders with the interest payments on their mortgages - not the actual loan itself.

People who are unemployed and who can prove they could afford the mortgage when they first began it are among those eligible for the supplement.

Mr Kenny confirmed the latest development will see support cut to only those who are in arrears with banks.

Meanwhile, the Personal Insolvency Bill, which will be enacted by the end of the week, provides for alternative support to people struggling with mortgage repayments.

The legislation requires that banks negotiate manageable repayment plans with borrowers before ordering to have a property repossessed.

The idea is to help people settle their debts outside the courts and prevent further repossessions.

Individuals who have been declared bankrupt are to be discharged after three years as opposed to the existing 12-year period, under the new legislation.

Mr Kenny described the Bill as a vital step in ensuring future financial security for Irish people.

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