Irish Times view on distressed borrowers: time to act

The rising tide of economic recovery has not lifted all boats

The low take up of Mortgage To Rent schemes is dispiriting as is an growing sense of distrust among distressed borrowers of the wider legal system. Photograph: Frank Miller

The low take up of Mortgage To Rent schemes is dispiriting as is an growing sense of distrust among distressed borrowers of the wider legal system. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

As the economy has recovered it has become easy for those in positions of power and influence to spin a narrative suggesting a rising tide has lifted all boats and all of those who were crushed by the economic tsunami are back on an even keel.

A report published this week by social justice group Community Action Network, focusing on people in mortgage distress, exposes the fallacy of that narrative. It highlights the isolation and abandonment felt by many of the 66,000 people struggling with long-term mortgage arrears and living in fear that the banks who lent them money – frequently after the most cursory credit checks – or the vulture funds which subsequently acquired their debts at a substantial discount will make them homeless.

State supports such as the Abhaile scheme, which offers some legal advice to those in mortgage distress, and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs), do not appear to be working as many hoped. They are certainly not being used by enough of those who need support and, the report suggests, now serve as little more than a smoke screen behind which the State can hide a lack of meaningful action.

The low take-up of Mortgage To Rent schemes is dispiriting as is a growing sense of distrust among distressed borrowers of the wider legal system. One reason distrust is mounting is because too many people are denied a basic human right as enshrined in law and not given access to meaningful legal supports at a low cost.

Too often, due to financial constraints, those in mortgage distress must fight their own corner in court against well-funded legal teams working for banks and vulture funds in a system which they find coldly unforgiving and completely baffling.

This is simply not good enough. The Government needs to do more and it needs to do it now. Too many lives have been blighted for too long by inaction and we will not truly leave the crash years behind until those who were hit hardest by it are properly taken care of.

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