Mortgage arrears is “one of the most pressing economic and social challenges facing the Government and the nation,” Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan has emphasised. “If we do not properly address it, we will jeopardise progress we have made in other areas to restore some stability to our fiscal and economic position.”
She made a keynote speech to the Housing Practitioners Conference in Limerick. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has started pilot projects on mortgage-to-rent schemes i.e. allowing distressed borrowers surrender their homes to the lending institution and lease them back from either the bank or a voluntary housing body which would purchase the property.
O’Sullivan hoped that Ireland was witnessing a “seismic shift in the tenure profile of our society which will break the old mould forever.” She wanted leasing or renting property to become desirable as the desire for home ownership had developed into an “unhealthy mindset … irresponsibly sponsored by successive governments who recklessly incentivised acquisition.”
Capital-intensive programmes in social housing “will not be possible on the same scale in the future” so solutions had to be more flexible and immediate. A new regulatory framework for the voluntary and co-operative sector, she added, must provide independent assessment of housing bodies’ competence to deliver, and the scope to intervene where risks and under-performance were identified.
O’Sullivan viewed the transfer of responsibility for the long-term rent supplement to local government as one of the most significant and radical reforms. Rent supplement would, in time, revert to being a short-term income support, as originally intended. More details would be released later this year.