Deputy Healy questions Minister Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation regarding those in difficulty paying their mortgages and in particular those who do not fall within the guidelines of the insolvency legislation.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Tá a fhios againn go léir go bhfuil 121,000 morgáiste in iarmharach. Tá 60,000 dóibh sin in iarmharach ar feadh bliain agus tá 33,500 in iarmharach ar feadh níos mó ná dhá bhliain. Tá 30,000 clann ar a laghad i mbaol a bheith curtha amach ach as a tithe cónaithe. Tá imní orm gur tugadh 1,500 cás nua chun tithe teaghlaigh a athsheilbhiú san ceathrú dheireanach de 2013 de réir ráiteas ó FLAC, an t-ionad chúnamh dlíthiúil. Dar le The Irish Times, 14 Eanáir 2014, “banks are sitting on 1,500 repossessed properties.”
An tsamhraidh seo caite, bhí sé ráite ag na saineolaithe go dtagann borradh ar athshlánú gach uile lá. Roimh na Nollag, d’iarr mé ar an Aire Quinn an nglacann sé leis go bhfuil fadhb dháiríre ag baint leis na mílte teaghlach atá ag maireachtáil ar ioncam an-íseal, faoi leibhéal na costais maireachtála agus nach féidir leo leas a bhaint as an bpróiseas insolvency, agus atá i mbaol an teach teaghlaigh a chailliúint. Tá dhá rud déanta ag an Rialtas ba chúis leis an ardú seo. I mí Iúil chuaigh an leasú ar reachtaíocht i bhfeidhm chun é a dhéanamh níos éasca do na bainc teach a athsheilbhiú. Roimhe sin, i mí Mheithimh, thug an Rialtas cead don Bhanc Ceannais na treoirlínte a athrú chun teach a athsheilbhiú tar éis dhá mhí seachas dhá mhí dhéag.
An dtabharfaidh an Rialtas isteach reachtaíocht a chiallaíonn go gcaithfidh na mbainc bunairgid na morgáistí a laghdú go dtí luach reatha an tí do gach éinne? Will the Government bring in legislation to ensure that mortgages will be reduced to the current market value of homes? An gcuirfidh an Rialtas cíos in ionad morgáiste ar fáil mar cheart dlíthiúil? Will the Government make available the mortgage to rent scheme as a matter of law do gach a bhfuil ag maireachtáil faoi bhun na costais maireachtála agus nach bhfuil in ann leas a bhaint as an insolvency process?

Richard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
I thank Deputy Healy for raising this issue. Certainly, this is one of the biggest challenges we face in terms of getting over the legacy of the banking crisis, and there are many families trying to cope with this. What is encouraging is that, for the first time, there is a sign that the numbers in mortgage difficulty are beginning to decline. As the Deputy knows, under the guidance of the Central Bank, very strict targets have been provided for the banks and mortgage companies. There is solid progress and engagement between consumers and lenders has already led to 51,000 permanent mortgage restructures, an increase of 6,000 accounts in the last quarter of 2013. There has also been a significant rise in the number of split mortgages from 2,500 when this data series began to 6,200. In addition, the number of mortgage accounts in arrears for greater than 90 days has fallen from 81,000 in the third quarter to 79,000 at the end of December. Therefore, some progress is being made although, clearly, it continues to be a very challenging and difficult area.
The Deputy asked whether it is possible for the Government to introduce new legislation that would allow the write-down of all mortgages to their current value. Very clearly, that would not be possible.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Of course it is possible.

Richard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
In order to write down the value of mortgages on that scale, as these are losses that are not provided for, someone would have to provide capital for the banks to do that. This could run to many billions and, indeed, probably €40 billion or €50 billion would have to be provided in additional capital to do that. The taxpayer has already put €64 billion into the banks and is not in a position to provide additional capital to achieve the sort of write-down the Deputy desires.
Clearly, each case has to be dealt with in a sensitive way and the Government has provided a framework within which that can be dealt with. It has also provided the personal insolvency arrangement whereby people can have a work-out over six years to deal with the problem and come away after the six years with an affordable mortgage while remaining in their home.
On the issue of mortgage to rent, the Government has introduced the option of mortgage to rent in certain social housing cases. There is some take-up on that and I know applications are continuing under that scheme

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Tá 30,000 clann ar a laghad i mbaol a bheith díbeartha as a teach cónaithe. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil feall mór á imirt ag an Rialtas ar mhuintir na tíre agus go bhfuil an Rialtas chun dul ar aghaidh leis sin gan stad gan staonadh. Thug an tAire Shatter tuarascáil an ghrúpa saineolaithe os comhair an Cabinet ag moladh gur chóir an próiseas athsheilbhithe a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí, in other words to make it easier to repossess family homes, trí chead a thabhairt chun execution orders a eisiúint ag an am céanna le hordaithe athsheilbithe. Tá sé seo an-tábhachtach, mar laghdaíonn sé an próiseas do sé mhí eile. This reduces the repossession process by over six months and helps the banks. An ghlacfaidh an Rialtas leis an moladh sin? An bhfuil an moladh sin i bhfeidhm?

Richard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
Of course, I acknowledge there have been changes to deal with a number of areas of the legislation in regard to people in difficulties. There has been a suite of legislation, as I said, which includes the introduction of new personal insolvency arrangements to allow for work on this. There was a court case on which the Government acted as a result of the earlier court decisions in regard to some repossessions, and that clearly had to be acted upon.
What we are aiming to achieve in this area is to give people the maximum opportunity to stay in their homes while working out arrangements with the banking system. The Central Bank, as the Deputy knows, is overseeing that process. There is significant progress on that and, indeed, we read in the newspapers this week evidence of the way in which banks are dealing in a more creative way with people in genuine difficulty.
Clearly, every case has to be dealt with on its individual merits. There is not the opportunity, as the Deputy would like, for someone to say that every case must be dealt with exactly in this way, that is, by writing down the value to the market value. Such options are not available to us because the cost of such on the taxpayer would be so enormous.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Has the Government agreed to the Minister, Deputy Shatter’s proposal?

Richard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
We have to work within the system we have put in place. As I said, it is delivering an increased number of work-outs, restructurings and split mortgages.
In the case we have seen, there has been write-downs and warehousing of certain mortgages. There are mortgage-to-rent schemes and an increasing number of options are being developed. That is the way we need to work through these difficulties and try to keep as many people as possible in their homes on an affordable mortgage.

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