Threshold – the national housing organisation – has said it is very disappointed with the final report of the Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt Group, which was published today (17.11.10).
Commenting on the report, Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said its recommendations do not provide real solutions for the thousands of people in Ireland who are currently struggling to keep their homes.
“This report was an opportunity to put forth innovative recommendations that would provide long-lasting, real solutions for those who are in arrears and struggling to pay their mortgages,” she said. “Instead, what we have is a range of proposals that tinker at the margins of the problems but go nowhere near addressing the challenges
“It is truly disappointing to see that measures such as debt forgiveness have been point blank ruled out by the Group. The possibility that a local authority might lease a repossessed home from a lending institution and in that way ensure the former home-owner could remain in their own home has also been excluded. Instead, stop-
gap measures are being proposed, which may defer people’s pain to some extent in the short-term, but which will not solve long-term problems.
“Deferring interest repayments, for example, is a stop-gap measure: while it may provide some level of temporary relief, it does not fundamentally alter the levels of debt in which people find themselves. Similarly, suggesting that those whose homes are in danger of being repossessed should be eligible for social housing does not make
real sense because it is estimated there may be up to 100,000 people on housing waiting lists. And suggesting that those with mortgages they can no longer afford should be facilitated to ‘trade down’ isn’t really feasible, given the current status of the property market.
“Over the coming years, the numbers in mortgage arrears will rise further. Threshold believes the cost of maintaining households in owner-occupation is likely to be lower than that of re-housing people or maintaining them for years on the rent supplement scheme. As such, we are extremely disappointed with today’s report and are calling on the Government to consider alternative proposals in addressing the growing levels of mortgage arrears.”
Threshold is proposing a number of alternative structural measures to assist distressed home-buyers. These include programmes under which a third party (e.g. a housing authority) purchases the dwelling and rents it back to the former owner, who can later re-purchase the dwelling if their financial circumstances improve, or where the State acquires an equity stake in the dwelling. Debt forgiveness for unsustainable mortgages must also be considered, according to the organisation.
Threshold was founded in 1978 and is a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to secure a right to housing, particularly for households experiencing the problems of poverty and exclusion. Its main concentration of work is within the rented sector. The organisation operates a national office, based in Dublin, and three regional offices.
In 2009, the organisation provided advice and representation to almost 22,000 people. Further information is available at www.threshold.ie.