Mortgage arrears issue needs urgent response
It is hard to tell human stories in figures alone, they do not convey the real trauma and anxiety of the threat of losing the roof over your family's head. The numbers vary, but it is estimated that, on average, there are almost 35,000 families who are two years or more behind with their payments. The average balance outstanding on these mortgages was €223,789.
Currently, there is something of the order of €8.8bn in outstanding balances on mortgages in arrears for more than a year on private homes.
Yesterday, Fianna Fáil revealed some new proposals in an attempt to ease the crisis. It certainly merits closer inspection. Many efforts have been made to defuse this rapidly ticking time-bomb. An expansion of the Government's mortgage-to-rent (MTR) scheme is one being driven by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.
Investors will be invited to buy blocks of distressed mortgages and let the homes back to the householders as social housing tenants. Rules on eligibility criteria would be relaxed to allow distressed borrowers to apply. For its part, Fianna Fáil wants to curb the ability of banks to veto restructuring deals for people in arrears. To such an end it proposes the setting up of a Mortgage Resolution Office, which would make the final decision in cases.
No doubt there will be more arguments for and against, but this is an urgent issue that demands a compassionate and realistic response, and it needs it sooner rather than later.