A leading housing charity fears repossessions will soar this year unless urgent Government action is taken.
Aoife Walsh, spokeswoman, said it was critical amendments be made to the Mortgage Interest Supplement (MIS) scheme, which gives short term support with interest repayments.
“The number of families struggling on a monthly basis is only set to increase during 2011 as incomes continue to fall and interest rates increase,” she said.
“The only state assistance for these homeowners is mortgage interest supplement but only 18,000 are accessing it currently, a fraction of the real number in difficulty.”
Ireland’s largest mortgage provider, Permanent TSB, and Ulster Bank both announced hikes in interest rates on standard variable rate mortgages on Friday. They will hit homeowners next month.
Respond! said nearly 100,000 homeowners are already struggling with mortgage repayments, with more than 40,000 in arrears of 90 days or more. Ms Walsh said the real concern is the 28,000 homeowners who have been unable to repay their mortgage for more than 180 days.
Respond! believes the main reason for low numbers benefited from MIS was its strict qualifying criteria. It maintained a review of the scheme seven months ago made several recommendations that have not been implemented.
“In the meantime, the number in arrears has increased and the number of homes being repossessed continues to rise,” said Ms Walsh.
“A lot of lip service was paid to the plight of homeowners in 2010 but very little action. Unless more is done to assist people, we could witness large scale repossessions in 2011 and 2012.”