Impossible to write down mortgage costs to their current value, Minister says

Move would cost up to €50 billion and taxpayer has already put €64 billion into banks

Seamus Healy: 30,000 families in danger of being evicted from their homes

Seamus Healy: 30,000 families in danger of being evicted from their homes


Reducing the cost of all mortgages to their current value would cost up to €50 billion, Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton told the Dáil.

He told Independent TD Séamus Healy it would be impossible to write down such a cost.

Mr Healy called for the Government to introduce legislation that would allow such a reduction.

“Very clearly that would not be possible,” Mr Bruton told him. “Someone would have to provide capital to the banks, probably €40 or €50 billion.” The Minister pointed out that the taxpayer had already put in €64 billion for the banks and was not in a position to provide additional capital for this.

Mr Healy raised the issue during leaders’ questions and pointed to the 121,000 mortgages in arrears, 60,000 of them for more than a year and 33,500 for more than two years.

The Tipperary South TD said 30,000 families were in danger of being evicted from their homes. He pointed to an Irish Times report in January that the “banks are sitting on 1,500 repossessed properties”.

“Will the Government make available the mortgage-to-rent scheme as a matter of law” for every homeowner who was not able to avail of the insolvency process, he asked.

The Minister acknowledged that dealing with the crisis in mortgage arrears was “one of the biggest challenges we face in getting over the legacy of the banking crisis”.

But it was “encouraging” that the numbers of people in mortgage difficulty was “beginning to decline”. Those with arrears of more than 90 days were down from 81,000 in September last year to 79,000 by the end of the year.

Some 51,000 mortgages had been permanently restructured through “engagement between consumers and lenders”. And the number of split mortgages had increased from 2,500 to 6,000.

He said each mortgage case had to be dealt with sensitively and the Government had provided a personal insolvency arrangement for people to “work out” the problem over six years and then have an “affordable mortgage while remaining in their home”.

He added the Government had introduced the option of mortgage-to-rent in certain social housing cases. “There is some take-up on that and I know applications are continuing under that scheme.”

Mr Bruton declined to be drawn when Mr Healy asked about a report from experts that Minister for Justice Alan Shatter brought to Cabinet, which “reduces the repossession process by over six months and helps the banks”.