Working in the Community, Working for the Community

Deputy Healy raises the issue of family evictions with An Taoiseach

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Up to 30,000 families face eviction due to the Government’s failure to protect them. Mortgage holders will not qualify for the insolvency procedures because they have no disposable incomes or disposable assets. They have fully engaged with their lenders. They are not strategic defaulters. Their only assets are their family homes. They hold modest mortgages, many of less than €100,000 and almost all of less than €200,000. They are all low-income families, many headed by unemployed people.
They are in this position through no fault of their own. They took out mortgages when employed to put roofs over their heads and to provide for their families. Now, they are unemployed because of the reckless activity of the entire Irish establishment, including the Central Bank, the banks, the Government, their cheerleaders in the media and the State research bodies that predicted a soft landing.

The same banks that destroyed society and that we bailed out are threatening these genuine mortgage holders with eviction. I have a letter from one of the pillar banks to such a mortgage holder. It outlines the options available to the person, including voluntary sale and voluntary surrender. In the event of a shortfall, the person would remain liable under all of the options for the outstanding debt, including accrued interest, charges and legal, selling and related costs. The bank would always seek the gross sale proceeds.
The letter threatened eviction. The bank noted that—–

Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
The Deputy is limited to two minutes.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
—–forbearance was not appropriate, given the fact that the person’s financial position was unsustainable, and that, if the repayments due were not met and arrears accumulated on the mortgage, the matter would, regrettably, be referred to solicitors.
Such conduct from banks that we have bailed out is outrageous, unjust and unfair.

Tommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
Hear, hear.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Will the Government legislate urgently to enable these unfortunate and blameless families to stay in their homes or will it continue to allow the banks to deploy the modern equivalent of the battering ram?

Deputies:
Hear, hear.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
The position is that I would say all parties in this House elected by the people do not want to see anybody thrown out of their home. The sad fact is, however, that, in a number of cases, it is going to be very difficult for some people to hold on to their homes – some.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Up to 30,000.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
The Government has put in place all of the mechanisms to help every person who is a mortgage holder who has got a problem. There are 47,000 restructured permanently already. The numbers are being assessed by the Central Bank. Despite the fact that the party opposite decried the personal insolvency agency, claiming that banks had a veto and that this would result in thousands of people being evicted, the first evidence of cases going through the personal insolvency agency do not seem to indicate that.
Robert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
Does one case tell the story?

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
As these cases are worked through, we will have evidence of the actual situation. If those hard-working people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in this position of having a problem with their mortgage, the first thing they must do is engage with the lender.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
They are fully engaged. They have done everything.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
There are requirements and codes and targets set out and—–

Peter Mathews (Dublin South, Independent)
The lenders should engage with the customers.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
—–being implemented by the Central Bank to work out a solution in each and every case. The Governor of the Central Bank has been very clear about the targets set by the Central Bank for banks and lending institutions to work out solutions in each and every case. It is perfectly obvious that the people who are applying for mortgages and who are in a position to purchase houses are not going to get caught in the same trap as those who have gone before them.
Despite much cynicism, the Government has acted responsibly to put in place codes of practice, targets and legislation to help the very people Deputy Healy spoke about. If they took out a mortgage and found that because of unemployment or other changed circumstances they are unable to pay, there is now a solution for every case. It means, however, that in every case those concerned must work out what solution is in their best interests. We do not want to see anybody lose their homes.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
What is the Taoiseach doing for this specific group of people?

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Some cases I have come across are very difficult.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Now the Deputy can speak properly. He does not need to interrupt.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
If the Taoiseach would answer the question we would have some basis for discussion.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Please proceed, anyway.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
While the Taoiseach continues to put his head in the sand and washes his hands like a Pontius Pilate act, many of the people I am talking about will end up on the streets, as Focus Ireland said this morning. It is certain that families evicted from their homes will end up on the huge local authority housing waiting lists. Some 110,000 families are already on those lists and more will join the end of that queue. It is also certain that they will be entitled to rent supplement at a significant cost to the State.

The mortgage to rent scheme would allow these families to stay in their homes on a rental basis and also give them an option of repurchasing in future if their financial circumstances improve. Surely that scheme would be both socially and financially beneficial to families, the State and even to the banks. However, even though we bailed out the banks they are resisting this scheme. The Government seems to have abandoned the scheme. There have only been 60 approvals in that scheme since it was introduced.
Will the Taoiseach personally intervene with the banks to ensure that they fully operate the mortgage to rent scheme? That would give some hope to the 30,000 families involved who are facing eviction. This is a huge problem.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Some 70,000 mortgages have been restructured.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I am not talking about those.
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
There were 45,177 permanent mortgage restructurings up to the end of September, which is an increase of 3,500 on the August figure. The Minister of State, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, is working on a number of those smaller, more precise areas, including mortgage to rent and split mortgages. She is following through on that.
Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Will the Taoiseach intervene with the banks?

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
There is a solution in each case for every person who has a mortgage difficulty, and the figures are well known. However, they must engage with the lenders.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
They cannot do so because the lenders are not engaging with them.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
There is no point in leaving the matter aside because it will not sort itself out. A deal has to be cut in all these cases. That is why 70,000 mortgages have been restructured and over 45,000 have been permanently restructured. That did not happen of its own accord. It is because of the legislation, the targets, the code of practice and the assistance for people to engage directly with lenders.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
It will not happen in these cases unless the Taoiseach intervenes.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
The housing supplement is being changed to give a different incentive so that people will have an opportunity to get back to work. The letter that Deputy Healy has is not a solution.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Absolutely. It is not a solution.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Thousands of those letters went out from banks. Neither the Deputy nor I are responsible for the tone of that letter.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
It is going out to those 40,000 people.

Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
This matter has been discussed with the Central Bank whose Governor has set down targets for every bank to sit down with every mortgage holder and work out a solution in each case. Evidence of the much decried personal insolvency legislation is now becoming clear from the initial cases going through, that the banks do not have a veto. If the banks decide not to deal through the personal insolvency agency, they may get nothing at all if the person follows a bankruptcy route. That has been changed from 12 years to three.

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