Taoiseach says no targets for repossession of homes in mortgage arrears
FF leader says crisis shows no signs of abating
Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath: introduced a Private Member’s motion relating to homes in mortgage arrears. Photograph: Alan Betson
No targets were being set for repossession of homes in mortgage arrears, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil. “That has to be the last resort and the conditions say that clearly.”
Mr Kenny said the targets set were deliberately demanding and were designed to ensure that the vast majority of families would be offered solutions that did not involve house repossessions. “We all know how important that is.”
The Taoiseach was replying to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who said the mortgage arrears crisis showed no signs of abating. More than 95,000 people were now in arrears of more than 90 days.
“The Government’s decision to amend the code of conduct places a substantial number – more than half – of these individuals in a serious situation in respect of the banks and the approaches they make,” he said.
“There are genuine fears about an impending wave of family home repossessions and people are very worried.”
Mr Martin said a Fianna Fáil Private Member’s motion, tabled last night, gave greater protection to those in arrears by establishing a clear definition of what constituted an unsustainable mortgage.
It also ensured a minimum protected level of income for people in arrears and reinstated the 12-month moratorium on commencing repossession proceedings.
Other courses of action
Mr Martin said his party’s proposals would also oblige a bank seeking an order of repossession to first obtain written confirmation from the Central Bank that it had exhausted every course of action available to keep the family in the home.
Mr Kenny said the Government’s strategy included comprehensive advice and assistance, rebalancing personal insolvency legislation, measures to assist families to stay in their homes, if possible, and challenging the banks to live up to their responsibilities through the speedy roll-out of their own range of solutions.
Introducing the motion later, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said borrowers were being hit by a triple whammy in the form of legislation which would make home repossessions easier, the programme allowing the banks to define a sustainable solution and the revised code of conduct unravelling vital protections for home owners.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the mortgage-to-rent scheme was now available as an option to low income families wishing to remain in their homes. His latest information was that 37 cases had been completed and awaited closure, while a further 27 were being processed.
Mr Noonan said claims that senior officials in the Department of Finance and in the Central Bank were predicting a significant number of repossession were incorrect. At the weekend, Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan indicated he hoped very few family homes would be repossessed.
“The suggestions by deputies of large scale repossessions, as a matter of course, are not helpful and, given the role Fianna Fáil played in the mortgage crisis, they should be more responsible in their statements.’’
Mr Noonan said that, while in some cases mortgage debts were so unsustainable that it would be in the best interests of all parties to surrender the house, in most cases when that happened it would be on a voluntary basis.