38,000 families in mortgage arrears for over two years
NEARLY 38,000 mortgage holders are more than two years behind on their repayments.
With home repossessions becoming a major political issue, banks, regulators and the Government have been accused of abandoning those who are in long-term mortgage arrears.
Figures from the Central Bank show that the number who are more than two years behind rose to close to 38,000 in December.
These people are classed as being in long-term arrears and are at risk of having their homes repossessed because they have not made payments for so long that they will probably find it difficult to get back on track, even if they return to employment, experts said.
The Central Bank said the number who are more than three months behind on their repayments fell below 80,000 in the quarter up to December.
It was the fifth three-month period of falling arrears of more than 90 days.
Nearly 115,000 residential mortgage accounts have been restructured, with split mortgages and arrears capitalisation - where the unpaid amount is added to the overall mortgage - being the most popular options.
The number of residential mortgage accounts in some form of arrears was more than 110,000.
A total of 429 properties were taken into possession by banks to the end of December. This meant lenders had 1,588 former homes in their possession.
"The numbers of families who are more than two years behind on their mortgage repayments have risen again," said David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation.
"These people have been abandoned by the banks, the Government and the Central Bank."
He said they were going to lose their homes because there were few options open to them, and this meant the mortgage arrears issue was set to turn into a homelessness crisis.
The Labour parliamentary party has backed plans to reduce the bankruptcy period to one year, down from three.
This is seen as a way to force banks to do state-approved insolvency deals with people who are in serious mortgage distress.
Mortgage adviser Karl Deeter of Irish Mortgage Brokers has suggested a modification of this to a situation where one-year bankruptcy should be allowed only for family homes where an insolvency practitioner puts forward a proposal that is vetoed by the bank.