Speaking yesterday during a Dáil debate on distressed mortgages, Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that “Government policy will push thousands more families into economic hardship and mortgage distress” and has called for “urgent action to address the 80,000 plus families in serious mortgage arrears”.
Deputy Doherty said: “There has been considerable media and political interest in the issue of distressed mortgages in recent weeks. However this problem is not new.
“The number of families struggling to repay mortgages bought at the height of the boom has been steadily growing for the last two years. Wage cuts, tax increases and rising unemployment have forced more and more people into mortgage arrears.
“As of December 2010 almost 45,000 households are currently in mortgage arrears for more than three months. 70% of these households have been in arrears for more than six months.
“When those households in receipt of Mortgage Interest Supplement are taken into account the total number of people in mortgage distress reaches a staggering 80,000.
“This represents a 50% increase in families unable to pay their mortgage since the end of 2009.
“Of course these figures hide the reality of the tens of thousands of families who are not in mortgage arrears but are paying an increasing proportion of their income on servicing boom time mortgages.
“The Fine Gael-Labour Programme for Government promises little more than longer moratoria –which simply pushed the problem further down the road- and bankruptcy legislation –the date and detail of which is not yet known.
“Indeed this government has signalled its intent to increase the financial hardship of tens of thousands of families across the state. The plan to do this by reducing tax credits, increased tax bands, introducing stealth taxes such as water charges and property charges at the same time as cutting the wages of low and middle earners. All of this will push even more families into mortgage arrears and distress.
“Sinn Fein welcomes today’s debate and will be supporting the motion but households experiencing mortgage distress need more than motions and political speeches, they need solutions enacted via legislation as a matter of urgency.”