My focus, and that of the Government, is to ensure that as many households as possible remain in their homes and in this regard, a range of measures are currently being implemented across Government Departments and agencies. These actions are focused on encouraging those in mortgage distress who have not been able to engage, to reach a long term debt resolution and avoid repossession if possible.
One of the measures that has been introduced is a national mortgage arrears resolution service, known as Abhaile, which is provided free of charge to the borrower and its aim is to help mortgage holders in arrears to find the best solutions and keep them, wherever possible, in their own homes. The unique element of Abhaile is that it brings together, for the first time, the full range of supports and services required by borrowers in home mortgage arrears. The Money Advice & Budgetary Service, MABS, acts as the gateway for the service and can be contacted by telephoning 0761072000 or by accessing their website at the following link www.mabs.ie/abhaile
The mortgage to rent, MTR, scheme introduced in 2012 and administered by the Housing Agency on behalf of my Department is targeted at those households in arrears who are eligible for social housing support, whose mortgage is unsustainable. Under the scheme an eligible household with an unsustainable mortgage goes from being a homeowner to becoming a social housing tenant of an approved housing body, AHB. The borrower voluntarily surrenders their property to their lender who in turn sells the property to an AHB. The AHB becomes the landlord and the household gets to remain in the family home as social housing tenants. The tenants pay a differential rent to the AHB, based on their income, which is designed to be affordable. The MTR scheme is an established part of the overall suite of social housing options and an important part of the mortgage arrears resolution process.
A review of the mortgage to rent, MTR, scheme, published on 8 February 2017, introduced a range of amendments to the eligibility criteria and administration of the MTR scheme in order for it to work better for borrowers. The review, available at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/changes-in-mortgage-to-rent-scheme/ , explored the avenues and impediments to participation in the scheme and recommended a number of actions to make the scheme work better for borrowers. My Department and the Housing Agency are working with all stakeholders to ensure that the actions set out in the review are being effectively implemented to benefit a greater number of households. I am providing an additional €5 million for the MTR scheme in 2018, which will support at least 250 additional MTR cases to be completed by AHBs working together with lenders using the MTR scheme.
The MTR Review also concluded that the current financial model of the scheme may not, in its current configuration, be capable of delivering the scale of successful cases that could benefit from the scheme over time. In order to test the operability of alternative funding models for the scheme, the Housing Agency has been working with a number of financial entities who have expressed an interest in working with the MTR scheme to progress a number of alternative long-term lease arrangements. A call for expressions of interest from bodies interested in pursuing pilot operating models was initiated by the Housing Agency on 26 October 2017. The Housing Agency is currently reviewing the submissions received and will make recommendations to my Department as to the make-up of the pilots, which can then be initiated.
For those borrowers in danger of losing their home who are ineligible for the MTR scheme but qualify for social housing support, it is recommended that they engage as early as possible with their local authority regarding their housing needs. A household may be determined by their housing authority to be in need of housing if it has a mortgage that is deemed to be unsustainable under the mortgage arrears resolution process, MARP, even though the household may, at that time, remain the legal owners of the dwelling concerned. Any household assessed as eligible for social housing support is immediately eligible for support through the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme. Once a household has been deemed eligible for social housing support, it is a matter for the local authority to examine the suite of social housing supports available, including the HAP scheme, to determine the most appropriate form of social housing support for that household in the administrative area of that local authority.