Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath has described as very disappointing the latest mortgage arrears statistics which show a continuing rise in the number of residential mortgages in arrears of greater than 90 days and a sharp rise in arrears amongst buy-to-let properties. The numbers in arrears have now doubled since the Government came to office.

Deputy McGrath said: “The scale of problem is enormous but I get the sense that complacency has set in amongst Government Ministers in relation to mortgage arrears. The recent positive trend in relation to employment data will not of itself solve this crisis. We are now within touching distance of the psychologically important number of 100,000 private residential mortgages in arrears of greater than 90 days. However the Government remain stuck in a mode of thinking whereby the banks should be allowed to dictate the pace and nature of any restructuring arrangements that are put in place.

“The Government’s Mortgage Arrears Resolution Targets Programme has actually made the situation worse for some borrowers.  The banks response has been to step up legal proceedings with over 13,000 threats of repossession issues since the targets were set. Over 31,000 family home mortgages are now in arrears of greater than two years. They will feel very let down by the Government’s hands off approach to the crisis. For many of these people their homes are now in imminent danger of repossession action.

“Where offers are being made they are very often little more than sticking plaster solutions.  Interest only is still the most popular method (25% of total) of tackling a mortgage in difficulty even though all the evidence suggests that this does not address the underlying issue of sustainability.

“We identified a practical solution which would involve stripping the banks of their control of the situation by means of an independent mortgage resolution office or alternatively by legislation mandating what offer the banks must to customers make in certain circumstances. I believe the case for such an approach is now overwhelming. Economic recovery and the well-being of society necessitates a far more radical approach than we have seen to date.”