Housing and homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has called for government action to support families living with home loan debt.
Figures show that over 1,100 family home loans are in arrears for two years or more in Donegal, while 13 mortgage to rent cases have either been completed or are being actively progressed.
The Government’s mortgage to rent scheme must be made mandatory for banks when dealing with families in debt, according to Fr McVerry.
The scheme allows mortgage holders at risk of losing their homes to switch to paying a fair income-based affordable rent to their local authority while remaining in their current dwellings.
Fr McVerry also called on the incoming Government to increase the scheme’s eligibility criteria so that a meaningful attempt can be made to solve many of the 27,000 cases where homeowners have been in arrears for at least two years.
At present, there are 1,200 active cases in the mortgage to rent process nationwide but Fr. McVerry wants to see that number increased significantly this year.
He challenged politicians seeking election to the next Dail to do “something drastic” to end the spiral of misery for so many families.
“What this housing crisis needs right now is radical thinking. Solutions won’t happen overnight but if the will is there, then it can happen pretty quickly,” said Fr McVerry, a member of the Advisory Board of mortgage to rent operator Home For Life.
“If the next government was serious about tackling this huge mortgage debt legacy from the past decade, it should make it illegal over the next three years to evict people without an offer of mortgage to rent.
“However, the next government has to sit down and change the thresholds which limit the mortgage to rent scheme.
“I am on record as saying that many more families should be included in this scheme because it is the only way for many of them to resolve their current circumstances.
“The stress and misery that people are enduring must be relieved and there must be an immediate review of extending the mortgage to rent boundaries.
“It saddens me to think that every week there are thousands of home-dwellers living in needless fear of a knock on the door or a visit from the postman.”
Fr McVerry urged those who find themselves in such difficulty not to bury their heads in the sand because the arrears just won’t go away.
“Instead, I would encourage them to engage with their local MABs people or their lender so that their cases can be dealt with,” said Fr McVerry.
“If they do that, then they should be able to stay in their home if they pay a rent like all local authority tenants.”