Ireland Plans Bold Measures to Lift Housing

With its economy still reeling from the housing crash, Ireland is making a bold move to help tens of thousands of struggling homeowners. The Irish government expects to pass a law this year could encourage banks to substantially cut the amount that borrowers owe on their mortgages, a step that no major country has been willing to take on a broad scale. Initiative, would lower borrower’s monthly payment, could prevent a tide of foreclosures, an uncertainty has been hanging over the Irish housing market for years. If it works, the plan could provide a road map for other troubled countries. Without the proposed law, Laura Crowley, a nurse who lives in a village 30 miles west of Dublin, figures she will lose her home. In 2007, Ms. Crowley and her husband bought a small home for a equivalent of $420,000. But they can no longer afford the $1,400 monthly payment. Her husband, a construction worker, is earning far less and her take-home pay has been cut by the country’s new austerity measures, which include new taxes. “This bill is the only light at the end of the tunnel for us,” she said. Most countries that have suffered housing busts, including the U.S., have made limited use of so-called mortgage write-downs, process of forgiving a portion of principal on the loan. The worry has been that some borrowers who can afford their mortgages will stop making payments to take advantage of a bailout. Banks have also been reluctant since they could face unexpected losses. Ireland is different from the United States and most countries. During financial crisis, Ireland bailed out banks, and government still has large ownership stakes in some of the biggest mortgage lenders. So taxpayers are already responsible for mortgage losses. In other countries, the burden of principal forgiveness would largely fall on privately owned banks. But the debate is the same: whether to push lenders to take losses now, in hopes that things will get better faster, or wait for housing market to heal on its own, which could cloud economy for years to come. Countries suffering from a housing hangover will most likely be watching Ireland closely to see how the law works. Spain, swamped with mortgage defaults, introduced measure in March allows for debt forgiveness, though under strict conditions. In many ways, Ireland has to try something audacious. House prices are still 50% below their peak, compared with 30% in United States. And more than half of Irish mortgages are underwater, meaning house is worth less than the outstanding debt. While some of those borrowers can afford to keep making payments, more than a quarter of mortgage debt on first homes, roughly $39 billion, is in default or has been modified by lenders. The housing market is now in a state of limbo as the government and the banks have made little effort to clean up the mortgage mess. Unlike in the United States, the Irish banks have foreclosed on very few borrowers. While Ireland’s leaders have considered it socially unacceptable for banks to seize large numbers of homes, they also feared fiscal cost of foreclosures. This approach creates doubt about true level of bad mortgages at Irish banks. And borrowers, unsure of whether they will keep their homes, remain in a state of financial paralysis. The new law aims to end this stalemate by overhauling Ireland’s consumer debt and bankruptcy laws (…..)



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Consultor Internacional

One Response to Ireland Plans Bold Measures to Lift Housing

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The exceptionalism ideology is too strong among the US political ruling elite to have an unbiased look in any foreigner success story. The Irish housing case, mentioned in this piece, is no exception. The reason is very simple, money and politics.

    The political solution for the housing crisis means banks taking a financial hit. This is bad for bankers, rich investors and politicians on the financial system payroll.

    Any powerful US politician that takes a look into the Irish housing crisis solution will say: ‘It won’t work in America !’ Right…


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