Nearly 100,000 mortgages in distress with €1bn arrears

NEARLY 100,000 mortgages are in distress, with the total of arrears now exceeding €1 billion, Central Bank figures have shown.

Outlining the scale of the crisis, the statistics show that 8.1%, or 62,970, mortgages are 90 days or more behind with payments. The average amount of the arrears is just over €17,000.

There are 46,371 mortgages in arrears for over 180 days, with these households an average of €21,000 behind on their loans.

Director of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) Noeline Blackwell said that the number of distressed mortgages has increased by 55% in the past year.

She said urgent action was needed, as the problem was only getting worse.

“Obviously, things are much worse now, and still the long-promised personal insolvency strategy and legislation has not been produced. That action should be prioritised and properly resourced.”

Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman, said seven weeks after the Keane report on mortgage arrears was published, no formal plan has been announced.

“It is absolutely clear from the figures that the mortgage arrears problem is accelerating. The situation is not helped by the indecision and lack of action on the part of Government,” he said.

The Irish Banking Federation said the figures reflected a deteriorating economic situation for some borrowers, but said lenders were employing a range of measures to deal with distressed borrowers.

However, Ciaran Phelan, head of the Irish Brokers’ Association, accused the banks of dragging their feet.

“The level of restructures are simply too low to cope with the number of people getting into trouble.

“The level of restructuring needs to increase to over 7,000 a quarter if we are to stem the rise in arrears.”

Meanwhile, an Oireachtas committee heard yesterday that 218,000 children are at risk of poverty — up 35,000 in two years.

Dr Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland (SJI), told politicians that the income of a household of four on social welfare is currently €80 a week below the poverty line.

Dr Healy said it is crucial to realise that child poverty cannot be addressed in isolation, but needs to be considered within the wider issue of household poverty.

SJI said the introduction of a basic income payment would lift households out of poverty and eliminate child poverty, while also wiping out unemployment traps.

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