Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath TD has said that a greater number of sustainable long-term restructuring options need to be put in place in order to tackle the mortgage arrears problem.

Deputy McGrath made the comments following the publication of the Central Bank’s mortgage arrears statistics for Quarter 4, 2016.

“There has been an overall reduction in the percentage of mortgages in arrears, and this is welcome. However, the pace of reduction has slowed in recent quarters underlining the enormous challenge of bringing arrears back to pre-recession levels. At the present rate of reduction, it will take another five years to reach pre-2008 arrears levels.

“The number of household mortgages in arrears over 720 days still remains stubbornly high at over 33,000 and for the second quarter in a row, the percentage of restructured mortgages re-defaulting has increased from 12.1% in mid-2016 to 13.1% by the end of the year.

“Perhaps the most alarming aspect of today’s results is the number of mortgages owned by so-called ‘vulture funds’. In excess of 12,000 family home mortgages, with a total value of €2.4 billion, are now owned and managed by unregulated ‘vulture funds’ with over half of these in arrears by more than 90 days. The Government must act urgently to treat these funds like any other lender and bring them fully within the ambit of regulation.

“Arrears Capitalisation, which results in mortgage holders paying more over the life of the loan, represents the highest proportion of restructurings. There is still a lack of sustainable options being made available to mortgage holders in arrears. For example, we do not see any debt for equity options being put in place. The Government has failed to ensure that the Mortgage-to-Rent scheme is used to the best possible extent with only 217 completed applications since the scheme was established,” concluded McGrath.